Liberty volleyball established itself as one of the best teams in Carroll County history Thursday night when the Lions finished a 20-0 season by winning the Class 2A state championship. The Lions beat Middletown, 2-1, at Harford Community College.
Liberty was powered by a dominant offense with strong hitters such as Paige Coulson and Sarah Hart. But in the middle is MacKenna Wright. Liberty’s junior middle blocker plays an important — although sometimes overlooked — role for the team. She is the first line of defense at the net, stifling opposing offenses, and is another strong option to put down a point when needed. Wright had two kills late in the decisive third set Thursday night.
A few hours after winning the state championship, Wright spoke to the Carroll County Times about the win, the season and more.
(Editor’s note: Questions and answers have been edited for clarity.)
So what are the emotions right now? Have you come back down yet?
I’m still kind of in shock, actually. I knew we could do it, but I’m just really happy that we capitalized.
What was the mood when your team came into the arena Thursday?
We were more confident going in. Of course we had some nerves about playing there and all the people there. And it’s a big deal because it’s the state championship. But we knew we could do it.
Looking at the makeup of the team, you’re playing next to a couple really strong hitters. How does that affect your job in the middle?
They definitely carry a lot of the weight on our team, but it just makes me a better player practicing with them all the time and being with them. It makes me better and I think it makes everyone better.
Do you ever just find yourself in awe watching one of them slam down a kill?
Blocking against Sarah is definitely crazy. The way the ball just goes past you, you don’t even see it coming. It’s scary but I’m glad to have her on my side.
So you have to face that every day in practice. What does that do when you’re going up against someone else in a match?
It makes be better. I can game plan based on my practices with them and I feel I’m ready for anything another team has to offer.
With the offense so strong, sometimes the way you play defense gets lost in the shuffle. Middletown’s Jordan Pryor is a good hitter. She had her moments in the final, but mostly you held her in check. How does the defense work so well?
We practice defense a lot and I’m just really proud of how it got better throughout the season and less balls were dropping.
Was a 20-0 season ever a thought for your team going back to the preseason?
We absolutely thought we could do it. Basically our mentality this whole season has been one game to the next. We weren’t thinking about results until it came, but since the beginning we knew it was a possibility because of how much talent we have on our team. I just can’t believe it actually happened.
How far back does this team go playing with each other?
I’ve been with Grace Maerten every single team I’ve been on. Ever since I started volleyball, I’ve been with her. I started volleyball in eighth grade.
What got you started in it?
I’m tall, so people would ask me a lot if I’d play volleyball or basketball. My mom wanted me to try it. I tried it and I really liked it. I just kept on doing it.
So they had to drag you out there, but once they did they couldn’t get you away from it?
Yeah, they did basically have to drag me out there, but I love it.
What is it about the sport that speaks to that passion?
I think it’s the way it changes. It’s one point after the next. The momentum changes. It’s just so exciting to watch and honestly, it’s just so fun to play.
You’re only a junior, so what’s going to be the encore next year?
We’re definitely losing a lot of people, but I still think we can be a solid team if we can put our pieces together. I’m looking forward to it.
I want to know more about the team. If there’s a team dinner, who is the best choice to cook it?
I have to say Erin Gossard. I just feel like that’s in her personality, she’s very good at everything.
What teammate do you think would make the best volleyball coach one day?
For you personally, if you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go?
Greece. It’s just so beautiful, I love all the pictures. It looks so pretty.
If you could go on any reality TV show, which one would you go on?
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Does this team have any good luck rituals or superstitions?
We have a set playlist of songs we have to listen to on the bus before every game. Before the games when we’re getting called, we always say the same things in the huddle and we always line up in an “L.” We’re all superstitious, we all wear the same socks and stuff.
What’s on the good luck playlist?
[Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson], we play that song. Then we play a bunch of Nicki Minaj songs.
In the nature of music, if there’s a team dance-off, who’s winning it?
Probably Jenna Liska, no doubt.