Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – Since its inaugural season six years ago Liberty High has been on a rapid rise toward become one of the top volleyball programs in the state.
From its first winning season in year two, to a state tournament berth in its third season to a spot in the 5A title game a year later in 2021 Liberty High has taken incremental steps each season while marching toward the top of Class 5A.
Liberty High appeared poised to reach the pinnacle last season.
The Lightning matched the program record with 34 wins and were top-ranked and top-seeded entering the state tournament.
Liberty High experienced one of the first major missteps in its journey toward a state title with a five-set loss to Johnston in the opening round of the 5A state tournament.
This season Liberty High is intent on making last season’s quarterfinal loss merely a detour in its state title trek.
“I think last year was our first time not achieving the goals that we had so having that happen has pushed us to work harder in the gym,” Liberty High senior Cassidy Hartman said. “We are doing all the little things that we can do to help us achieve that goal because we don’t want to feel that way again.”
From 13-20 in its first varsity season in 2017 Liberty High has quickly climbed into the ranks of elite programs in the state.
Liberty High has reached the 5A state tournament each of the past five seasons going 92-11 in the process.
A senior class that includes all-staters Hartman and Shelby Kimm has led the Lightning ascension.
After the jolting end to last season Hartman and Kimm are ready to finish stellar careers on a high note.
“We aren’t dwelling on last year but we are trying to use it as motivation,” Kimm said. “If anything we are coming into this season more hungry. We are ready to go out there and reverse what happened last season.”
The early state tournament exit was a bit of a shock at the time.
Over the course of the offseason it served as motivator, a reminder and a learning experience for the Lightning.
“We have a lot of high achievers, we have a lot of girls with high hopes and big dreams which is great, they want to achieve a lot and they want that dream that everyone wants, they want to win the championship,” Liberty High coach Allie Kelly said. “With that said I think they are very understanding that it takes a lot of luck, it takes a lot of hard work and I think last year was kind of a reality check that even when you are projected to win the whole thing it’s harder than it sounds.”
Kimm and Hartman lead a loaded list of returners for the Lightning and give Liberty High perhaps the top hitting duo in the state.
A two-time Elite Team all-state pick, Hartman has led Liberty High in kills each of the past three seasons.
The Northern Iowa recruit is coming off her best season when she hammered 423 kills while hitting .351 a year ago and is motivated by how her junior season ended.
“I think last year we got ahead of ourselves with everyone thinking that we had it all before we won,” Hartman said. “I think that really taught us that we have to play one point at a time, one game at a time and all that energy and effort has to be there every point.”
Kimm has been nearly as impressive finishing second on the team in kills the past two seasons and collecting 626 career kills.
Together Kimm and Hartman have accounted for better than 1,600 career kills.
“I think this class of seniors it’s our last go around we are ready to leave it all on the court,” Kimm said. “We are ready to make history.”
Kimm and Hartman aren’t the only firepower returning this season.
Both setters from a year ago return in junior Mariah Rollins and sophomore Asta Hildebrand and senior Lilah Vanscoyoc is back after earning Mississippi Valley Conference honorable mention honors after ranking fourth on the team with 137 kills.
“They are definitely coming back with a chip on their shoulder,” Kelly said. “They have the same dream in mind but they are understanding that it’s going to take a lot of work, it’s going to take coming together as a team and it’s going to take some luck as well.”
There are a few holes to fill namely at middle and libero where the Lightning lost their dig leader in senior Gabbie Schroeder and block leader in Sam Harvey.
“People are learning really fast and taking a step up,” Hartman said. “We have a lot of people that have been waiting for an opportunity to play and they are stepping up.”