Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Last year was a season full of firsts for the Liberty High volleyball program.
The Lightning added a few more firsts on Tuesday and it was a couple of big ones.
Liberty High rallied from a first set loss to earn the first Mississippi Valley Conference win in program history with a four-set upset of Class 5A No. 10 West High (2-3, 1-1 MVC) in a meeting of Valley Division rivals on Tuesday at West High.
“We were really stressed in the beginning because it was West High but we came back and we fought,” Liberty High junior LeeAnn Potter said. “We said we had to come out tougher after the first set and I thought we did that.”
Liberty High gave a valiant effort but came up just shy of an upset in its MVC debut last Tuesday taking the opening set from 4A third-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier but dropping the next three.
On Tuesday Liberty High flipped that script to earn the first MVC win for any sport in the school’s first season as a conference member.
Potter had a team-high 14 kills as the Lightning improved to 5-1 and 1-1 in MVC play with the 26-28, 25-21, 25-15, 25-22 win.
“I don’t want to say we are inexperienced but we are inexperienced with this MVC stuff,” Liberty High head coach Randy Dolson said. “It’s a little heady for them right now. Against Xavier we came out and we played really well that first game but I think we kind of psyched ourselves out too much. Tonight, we said it’s an MVC match lets just have a little more fun and if we start playing ball it will take care of itself.”
Potter led three Liberty High players with double figure kills as the Lightning finished with a 50-44 edge in kills.
Sophomore Olivia Slattery had six of her 13 in the final set as Liberty High scored the final five points of the match to overcome a 22-20 deficit and secure its first win against West High.
“We found something that was working in the middle and we took advantage of it,” Dolson said. “We straightened out our passing a little bit, you can’t run the middle if you don’t pass so that was just critical because we felt like we had a mismatch in the middle.”
Liberty High appeared poised to take control of the match early using an 7-1 run to take an 18-13 lead in the opening set.
The Lightning took a 23-20 lead late but West High rallied to tie the score at 23 on an Emily Cray kill and an ace serve by Grace Fleckenstein.
West High fought off a pair of set points for Liberty High and scored the final three points of the set, earning a 28-26 win on a cross-court kill by Cailyn Morgan.
Liberty High responded quickly.
The Lightning snapped a 19-all tie in the second set with a 4-0 run that featured a Potter kill and an ace block by Lauren Roman.
Back-to-back kills by Potter secured a 25-21 second set win to even the match.
“We really talked about keeping our composure and playing more on an even keel,” Dolson said. “Obviously this was a big match for these girls that started out at West and I think the first set we lost a little composure and we talked about that.
It was all Liberty High the rest of the way.
Liberty High used a 9-0 run to break open a 15-12 game in the third set.
Potter had an ace serve in the run that featured three kills and an ace block from Slattery and a pair of kills by freshman Sydney Woods
“We all knew we could do it and after the first set we were down a little bit,” Woods said. “We knew we could do it we just had to play looser.”
Woods had five of her 10 kills in the third set as Liberty High too control of the match with a 25-15 win.
“I think we just played a lot looser,” Woods said. “In the first set we were all tight, we played looser and more confident and I think that helped a lot.”
West High led by as many as four points in the fourth set and appeared to be in position to extend the match to a fifth set but Liberty High rattled off the final five points to earn the win.
Three consecutive kills by Slattery turned a 22-21 deficit into a 24-22 Liberty High lead and Potter secured the win with a cross-court kill.
“It feels great now and I think it boosts our confidence a lot,” Potter said. “Hopefully this will help us in the future.”
Morgan had a match-high 18 kills to lead West High while Claire Overton had nine kills and setter Rylee Fay had five kills an ace serve and three ace blocks.
Liberty High 26 25 25 25
West High 28 21 15 22
Cailyn Morgan 18-0-0, Natalie Young 4-0-0, Rylee Fay 5-1-3, Grace Fleckenstien 0-1-0, Claire Overton 9-1-0, Emily Cray 3-0-0, Ellie Kouba 3-0-1, Haley Gallagher 2-0-1, Team 44-3-5.
Assists – Rylee Fay 36
Madian Elola 2-0-1, Lauren Roman 7-0-2, Olivia Slattery 13-0-1, Sydney Woods 10-3-1, LeeAnn Potter 14-2-1, Hailey Hested 4-2-0, Gabbie Schroeder 0-3-0, Team 50-10-6.
Assists – Hailey Hested 37