This year’s Liberty volleyball team pretty much had it all. There are dominant hitters, a crafty setter running the show, strong blockers and agile defenders.
The perfect mix.
Throughout the season and even Thursday night during their state championship match, the Lions weren’t flawless, but they were perfect.
Liberty closed out a 20-0 season with a 3-1 win over Middletown in the Class 2A state championship match.
“It’s unreal. Especially being my senior season, to end out on a season like this, is just incredible,” senior Sarah Hart said. “Going from only winning three games my freshman year to building up to this, improving every single season, finishing off with an undefeated season is wild.”
“How much the team and how much the program has grown over the four years that we’ve been here, it’s just incredible,” senior Paige Coulson added. “We put in so much work and grew so much as a team, it’s really rewarding.”
The team had been building to a year like this, where everything fell into place. The right people came together at the right place at the right time and made magic.
The players and coaches aren’t shy about saying they expected great things from this group. They knew the potential they had from the moment preseason practices began. They just had to make it happen.
“We definitely worked really hard this season,” junior setter Grace Maerten said. “We put a lot of time in at practice. We put a lot of hard work in and we grew to really love each other and I think that was the really big determining factor in today’s outcome.”
Thursday’s first set was a clinic. The hitters were unstoppable, the defense was solid and the Lions were crisp in every area. They were, well, perfect.
They steamrolled to a 25-13 win. But then came a reminder that their work wasn’t done.
Middletown controlled most of the second set, winning it 25-19. The Knights were also in step with the Lions early in the third. Middletown held a 6-5 lead, looking to tilt the match in its favor.
But Liberty had the perfect response thanks to the dynamic duo of Hart and Coulson.
Hart tied the match with a kill, then stepped back to serve. She watched as Coulson put down kills on the next five Liberty points as the Lions worked their way to a five-point lead.
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“Me and Sarah, we have moments where we get hot,” Coulson said, “where every time we swing at the ball, we just know where to put it, we can see the court so well.”
The fourth and final set was nearly a duplicate of the third. Middletown held a 13-10 lead this time before Liberty’s hitters — Coulson, Hart and Jenna Liska — took over.
By definition, a perfect team is not a one-dimensional outfit. The dynamic offense is complemented by its defense, which has been tasked all year with keeping balls from hitting the floor and starting the attack.
Hadley Rossbach, Erin Gossard and Delaney Gray team with hitters Hart, Coulson and Liska when they rotate back to form a solid unit, starting the transition to offense with passes to setter Maerten.
“We work really hard on defense in practice. I think it definitely helps a lot,” Maerten said. “They move their feet, they’re just great players all around and definitely help me out as a setter. I’m not running around the court the whole time, our defense does a really, really good job.”
Put it all together, and you get a state championship, you get 20-0, you get perfection.
“I am so incredibly proud of this team and everything that they’ve done,” coach Sheri Hagen said. “Every day during practice at every match, after every match, working hard together, with each other, for each other, for themselves, for our school. I love this game and I think I might love these girls just as much as this game.”