Liberty junior Lydia Leiner talks about her team's playoff win over Winters Mill.

No one needed to look at the scoreboard when Monday’s volleyball match ended between Liberty and Winters Mill.

The Lions jumped for joy. The Falcons wondered how another one got away.


Liberty beat visiting Winters Mill for the third time this season, outlasting the Falcons 28-26, 25-27, 25-16, 25-12 in the Class 2A West Section 1 semifinal.

“In the previous two matches, we weren’t able to stay focused for three solid sets,” said Liberty coach Michael Rainbow, whose team beat Winters Mill in five sets in the other two wins that came in early October and mid-September. “They were really happy to see they had grown since the last time we had played them.”

Outside hitter Lydia Leiner was the catalyst for Liberty (15-2), finishing with 20 kills, 10 digs and four blocks.

Rainbow said the 5-foot-9 junior has been recruited by Division I colleges.

“She really has turned up her game since the halfway point of the season,” he explained. “She really has put herself up there as an elite player. She’s pretty much had 20 kills per game for the last five or six matches.”

Liberty's Taylor Fowlkes fires a spike at Century.
Liberty's Taylor Fowlkes fires a spike at Century. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

Leiner got some help from her teammates in the latest win over Winters Mill as Ali Whitworth (32 assists, nine digs), Grace Bauer (21 digs), and Taylor Fowlkes (11 digs, eight kills, four aces) turned in solid performances.

Ashley Bobnar (12 kills), Jordan Badorrek (25 assists), Sara Schaefer (nine kills), and Kayla Vaeth (19 digs) led Winters Mill. The Falcons (8-9) started quickly in the first set, going ahead 5-2.

The game was tied twice before Liberty took the lead for good behind the serving of Whitworth and Bauer.

Whitworth had three aces in a 4-point run to give Liberty a 17-11 lead. The Falcons fought back to trim the lead to 17-15.

The Lions pushed their lead to as many as five points before Leiner finished the visitors off on a kill.

Winters Mill started well again in the second set, taking leads of 3-1 and 9-6.

The Falcons pushed their advantage to 14-9 — their biggest lead of the game — when Vaeth blocked Fowlkes’ kill attempt. But the Lions pushed the Falcons down the stretch before they pulled out the set.

Liberty was impressive in the third set, bolting to a 10-5 bulge. The Falcons had some miscommunication and missed a few returnable balls.

The Lions’ margin grew to 19-10 late behind the serving of Whitworth. Winters Mill got as close as 22-15. Leiner ended the set with an ace.


“We were able to get rid of our nervous energy in the third and fourth set,” Rainbow said.

Liberty met little resistance in fourth set. The Lions jumped out to a 16-5 lead and cruised, and by winning moved into the sectional final Wednesday aganist Oakdale.

“We stayed very focused,” Leiner said. “We really wanted to win instead of trying to let them make errors. We had to fight and take the game from them in order to win.”