Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Liberty’s Jackie Lopez digs up a ball to set up the offense for the Hawks during Thursday’s five-set loss to the Chowchilla Tribe.
The Liberty Hawks girls volleyball team pushed Chowchilla to a tiebreaking set, but ran out of answers in the end and suffered a 3-2 home loss on Senior Night.
It was a tough end to the regular season for the Hawks, with many of the players walking away in tears after the game. Still, Liberty head coach Grant Clark said the team is looking forward to the playoffs and he is proud of how they fought all season after Thursday’s match.
“Towards the end of the year, we really came together as a team,” Clark said. “We were not getting a lot of wins towards the end of the year, but we were playing really well. We had a lot of close matches, a lot of close sets.”
Audrina Vasquez scored two points early in the first set to keep the Hawks close in Thursday’s game. Chowchilla, however, took a 5-4 lead and continued to pull away. The lead grew to 14-7 before the Hawks scored five in a row to cut the lead to two points.
Lucia Somilleda scored two in a row during the Hawks’ the run to help her team reduce the gap. Still, the Hawks didn’t get any closer. Chowchilla put together a 4-0 run to push the lead back to five points.
After Liberty ended the run, the Hawks came back with two in a row to push the lead back to six points. Liberty scored three more points before the Chowchilla took the first set 25-17.
“Chowchilla had one outside [hitter] that was working us pretty good down the line. They attacked our lines a lot,” Clark said. “The middles were active. Not overpowering, but they were active and they ran a quick offense.”
The second set was tied at seven before Chowchilla scored two in a row to take a 9-7 lead. Stephanie Madrigal and Vasquez scored back-to-back points for the Hawks as Chowchilla tried to pull away. After the Tribe pushed the lead to three points, Sarah Shevenell and Lauren Parks brought the Hawks within one point. Liberty forced a 17-17 tie after a sideout, then took a one-point lead.
Chowchilla’s Tori Calley responded with a kill for an 18-18 tie, but Liberty’s Camille Vestal helped her team regain the lead. The teams went back-and-forth until Vasquez came up with back-to-back points to give her team a two-point lead. Parks added another kill for a 22-19 Hawks’ lead. Somilleda scored the final point to secure a 25-19, helping the Hawks tie the game.
The Hawks made up a three-point deficit in the third set and forced a 12-12 tie, but it wasn’t long before the Tribe pulled away. Chowchilla pushed the lead to four points, then saw the gap shrink to two after back-to-back points from the Hawks. Still, Chowchilla scored four in a row before Somilleda ended the run. With the Tribe holding set point, the Hawks took advantage of a few errors to cut a six-point lead to three. Chowchilla, however, regrouped and won the third set 25-21.
“We played well enough to win, but so did they,” Clark said. “It was a fair outcome.”
Liberty held a 9-3 lead in the fourth set after a kill from Shevenell. The lead grew to 14-5 when Somilleda added another point to her total. After Vasquez made it 17-6, Somilleda scored another kill to push the lead to 12. Jaclyn Smith followed up with three service aces in a row to make it 21-6. The Tribe scored four straight in the late stages, but still lost 25-10 in the fourth set.
The Hawks recovered from a 4-0 deficit in the tiebreaker set and forced a 5-5 tie after a service ace from Jackie Lopez. After a 7-7 tie, however, Chowchilla held Liberty scoreless and won the tiebreaker 15-7.
“The whole year, I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” Clark said. “I love those girls to death and I couldn’t have been happier to coach them this year.”