Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – Liberty High senior setter Hailey Hested described the last three weeks as a grind.
Head coach Randy Dolson was a little more blunt when detailing the three-week stretch for his team that featured 20 matches in 22 days.
“I’m exhausted, the coaching staff is exhausted and not physical but mentally,” Dolson said. “Our kids are sore but I think their minds are sore too.”
Liberty High didn’t show any signs of that fatigue in its regular season finale on Saturday.
Class 5A sixth-ranked Liberty High capped its wild three-week ride with one of its most impressive performances of the season, a 25-22, 25-21, 25-18 sweep of Class 4A top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier in North Liberty.
The win was the 12th straight for Liberty High (20-2) and put the finishing touches on an incredible stretch that has seen the Lightning go 19-1 since restarting its season on September 26.
“It’s definitely been a grind for sure we’ve been going, going, going and it’s practice or play every day it feels like,” Hested said. “It’s good to get some wins and know that we are working hard for a reason and now we get to relax for a little bit.”
Liberty High was 1-1 when it was forced to suspend play for a little more than three weeks due to COVID-19 numbers in Johnson Country dictating an online only start to the school year.
Since returning to action Liberty High crammed half of a regular season into 22 days and did it nearly without a blemish.
The only loss for the Lightning during the hectic stretch to close the season was a four-set loss at 5A fifth-ranked West Des Moines Valley on October 3.
Since then Liberty High has ripped off 12 straight wins, eight of which have come against ranked teams.
The finishes touches came with back-to-back wins over top-three teams in span of 72 hours.
Liberty High knocked off third-ranked and defending 4A champion Cedar Falls on Thursday before sweeping the top-ranked Saints on Saturday.
“We haven’t put a complete match together for a little while, I think last Saturday we were able to do that at the Prairie tournament, and I don’t want to make excuses but I just think we are a little tired,” Dolson said. “We need a couple of days off. We’ll regroup and come back and have good practices on Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Saturday was originally set as the date for the Mississippi Valley Conference tournament.
That was cancelled due to COVID allowing Liberty High and Xavier to schedule a meeting of MVC Divisional leaders in what turned into an unofficial conference championship of its own.
There wasn’t a conference champion awarded on Saturday but Liberty High certainly earned that distinction going 6-0 in Mississippi Division matches, defeating Mississippi Division opponent Western Dubuque twice in the last week of the season and adding wins over ranked Valley Division foes Xavier and Dubuque Senior in the last week.
“We knew today was going to be a tough one because they beat Cedar Falls and we really had to fight against Cedar Falls to get that win,” Hested said. “I was expecting a close game and I was glad with how we performed.”
Liberty High looked nothing but fresh on Saturday against the Saints leading from the outset in a 25-22 win in the opening set.
Sophomore Cassidy Hartman had five of her match-high 13 kills in the opener as Liberty High built a 21-12 lead before a late Xavier rally.
“We came out ready,” Hartman said. “We were hitting strong and we didn’t play scared and our defense was great.
Liberty overcame 19-17 deficit in the second set thanks in part to a couple of big plays by sophomore Shelby Kimm who had a kill and an ace block in a 4-0 Lightning spurt.
“I was a little bit nervous, I don’t know about everybody else but I was a little nervous today,” Kimm said. “We came out strong and it was really fun.”
Kimm finished with six kills and six ace blocks as Liberty High had nine blocks as a team.
Lauren Roman added three blocks for the Lightning which finished with a 9-4 edge in blocks.
“I think our block was a big help,” Hested said. “Obviously that’s a big help to our defense and it gets their heads a little bit so they aren’t swinging at us as hard the whole time.”
Kennedy Daugherty had seven kills for Liberty High while Sam Harvey had five and Hested and Roman three in a balanced attack.
Maya Karl led Xavier with six kills.
Liberty High 25 25 25
CR Xavier 22 21 18
Liberty High (Kills-aces-blocks)
Lauren Roman 3-0-3, Shelby Kimm 6-1-6, Kennedy Daugherty 7-0-0, Sam Harvey 5-0-0, Hailey Hested 3-1-0, Carlie Schroeder 1-0-0, Cassidy Hartman 13-1-0, Lilah VanScoyoc 1-0-0, Olivia Davenport 4-0-0, Team 38-8-9.
Assists – Hailey Hested 20, Mariah Rollins 7.
Cedar Rapids Xavier (Kills-aces-blocks)
Maci Kadlec 2-0-0, Elsie Ridder 0-2-0, Taylor Marlin 1-0-0, Katy Garrison 2-0-0, Eve Magill 4-0-1, Elyse Winter 5-1-3, Maya Karl 6-0-0, Bella Musick 4-0-0, Team 24-3-4.
Assists – Jazmine Yamilkoski 15