Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – The growth has been steady for Liberty High over the past two years.
Expectation levels and win totals have both risen for the Lightning in each of their first two seasons as a varsity program.
In year three Liberty High believes its ready to take things to the next level and there is no debate about what the next step is for the program.
“We want to make it to state for sure,” senior LeeAnn Potter said. “We definitely want to make it to state and that’s something that we feel is a realistic goal for us.”
Liberty High has been trending upward since the program began in 2017.
The Lightning followed up a 13-win season in their inaugural campaign with a 19-15 season a year ago in its first season in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
In year three the next step is postseason success.
“Our goal this year is definitely state, that has been the goal from the beginning,” junior setter Hailey Hested said. “Now, that’s our big goal and we know that if we are going to get to state we need to step up our leadership and be able to communicate on the sport.”
For the first time in program history the state tournament talk is more than just a dream.
The Lightning open the season ranked ninth in Class 5A and have a lineup capable of becoming the first team in school history to qualify for a state meet.
“It’s a battle between who is going to do that first at Liberty so it would be a big deal for us,” sophomore Sydney Woods said. “Qualifying for state would be huge for us.”
The pieces are in place for a serious state tournament run.
Five starters return from last year’s 19-15 squad including three players that logged at least 124 kills last season, Hested at setter and the Lightning’s top three back row players.
Add in West High transfer Rylee Fay, a first-team all-MVC division pick and a talented freshmen class as Liberty High has the makings of a state tournament caliber team.
“Everyone wants that goal and they want to make it happen, that’s the only goal, that’s what we want to get done so it’s exciting,” Fay said. “We have a group of talented players coming back, there is a bunch of freshmen coming up and they are just amazing all of us. We definitely have the talent this year.”
Potter headlines the list of returning talent after leading the Lightning in kills and digs each of the past two seasons.
The 5-foot-9 Potter was the only Liberty High player with more than 200 kills last season when she hammered a team-high 326.
This season the Lightning should have a much more balanced attack.
“Our first year I feel like we were all timid and a little scared because we were really young and then once we had some juniors last year I felt like we were a lot more confident and we did a lot better than we expected,” Potter said. “We are definitely more confident this year so I am really excited to see how we can play this year.”
Woods, junior Lauren Roman and Fay should all help lighten the load for Potter in their own way.
A 5-foot-9 hitter Woods flashed potential last season posting 186 kills as a freshman while the 6-foot-1 Roman had 124 kills from her middle position a year ago.
“I think we just need to be more mentally strong and be able to push through those five-set matches because we lost a lot of those last year,” Woods said. “If we won a lot of those close matches we could have been an elite program so we know that we were close.”
Fay joins the Liberty High lineup as one of the most versatile players in the conference.
The 5-foot-9 senior led West High in blocks, aces and assists a year ago and ranked third on the team in kills and digs.
Fay has fit in well with the Liberty High lineup in her first season.
“It’s gone really well, it’s nothing new,” Fay said. “Hailey (Hested) has been really good to me, we aren’t really competing we know what we need to do for team and whatever works for the team is what is going to happen.”
Hested returns at setter after leading the Lightning in assists the past two seasons.
She had a team-high 775 assists a year ago.
“We are super comfortable with one another,” Hested said. “We are around each other and we are super comfortable with each other. We are super bonded so it’s easy to be next to each other on the court and trust each other.”
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