Liberty heads to postseason on high note

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The Lady Redhawks finished the 2019 campaign as undefeated district champions in 9-5A and will face Princeton in the bi-district round.

With the postseason set to begin Monday, there will be no need for the Liberty volleyball team to play in a tune-up match for any last-minute preparations for the playoffs.

That’s because the Lady Redhawks concluded the regular season Tuesday night against another formidable foe in playoff-bound Lebanon Trail for a perfect ending to a perfect district season.

Liberty swept the Lady Trail Blazers (26-24, 25-17, 25-20) to finish the year with not just a second consecutive district title but an undefeated district run at 18-0.

“We have all the pieces,” said U’iLani Womble, Liberty head coach. “We have great kids in every position and have a deep squad where we have options. This is the most successful four-year run we have had in the duration of our program.”

Although the district title was secured last week, the Lady Redhawks wanted to prove they could achieve the feat of not dropping a game in one of the tougher Class 5A districts in the state.

“Tonight was a matter of pride,” Womble said. “Once you get to the point with all of these wins with the zero behind it, we wanted to keep it clean. We even joked in practice the other day about how we don’t know what a one behind our record means.”

The Lady Redhawks may have soared to the sweep, but this match had the makings of a potential five-set slugfest in the early goings.

In the first frame, both sides exchanged blows back and forth with neither team pulling ahead by more than three points at any moment of the set before Liberty gained a bit of separation when things were deadlocked at 21 apiece.

That’s when senior right side Kyla Crawford sent over a savvy kill to make it 22-21 in favor of Liberty. Senior outside hitter Jenna Wenaas then made a heads-up play of her own when she caught the Lebanon Trail defense off guard with a tip-kill.

But the Lady Trail Blazers rallied and tied things up moments later at 24-all when senior middle blocker Ashia Dorsey slammed a ball over that not even Wenaas could dig.

However, Wenaas then proved why she is one of the top players in the country, taking things over with back-to-back kills to crush the Lebanon Trail comeback effort.

“Winning that first game lets you take a deep breath,” Womble said. “We made so many unforced errors in that first game, but getting that win helped us settle down and get in control.”

After the Lady Trail Blazers raced out to their largest lead of the night to begin the second set at 5-1, Liberty bounced right back with the momentum on a 7-0 run to take an 8-5 advantage.

That lead quickly ballooned to as much as six down the stretch thanks to big-time plays from sophomore outside hitter Lauryn Hill, who slammed four of her seven kills in the second.

The convincing 25-17 victory took the wind out of Lebanon Trail’s sails going into the third in which the Lady Redhawks never trailed, as Wenaas took over once again and capped things off with her 17th kill of the night on a thunderous throw-down in the final moments.

In the defeat, Lebanon Trail junior middle blocker and USC commit Tyrah Ariail led the way with 10 kills, while senior outside hitter Rayna Williams added seven of her own.

The Lady Trail Blazers must now look ahead to the postseason where it will open things up in the bi-district round 7 p.m. Monday against Wylie East at Allen, while Liberty takes on Princeton 6:30 p.m. Monday at McKinney.

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