WEST VALLEY PREPS

Liberty volleyball's breakthrough season ends at defending champs

Posted 11/11/21

CHANDLER - The better Liberty girld volleyball adapts to the difficult competition in 6A the further it wades into the deep end.

The Lions' first 6A quarterfinal Nov. 9 at defending champion …

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WEST VALLEY PREPS

Liberty volleyball's breakthrough season ends at defending champs

Posted

CHANDLER - The better Liberty girld volleyball adapts to the difficult competition in 6A the further it wades into the deep end.

The Lions' first 6A quarterfinal Nov. 9 at defending champion Chandler Hamilton returning all but two players from the 2020 titlists certainly qualifies.

The Huskies (32-5) were too much for a feisty Liberty squad (17-11) in the playoffs, winning 25-19, 25-19, 25-22.

"They hit really hard and have a ton of skill. All my teammates did so good. We gave our all to defend them," sophomore setter Alyssa Forelli.

A familiar pattern emerged in the first set. Hamilton maintained a good-sized lead, 14-10 then 21-15, then Liberty rallied to cut the disadvantage to 21-18.

But the Huskies always had a finishing kick, winning four of the next five points to put the set away.

"We tried to stick with what worked and stayed aggressive," Liberty coach Ashley Leparulo said.

It was 11-9 in the second set when Hamilton stepped on the gas. Suddenly, the Huskies led 22-11.

Liberty battled back with seven straight points, including switching up its offensive focus for three kills by Forelli.

The 11-point hole was too big to dig out of.

"That was more on my setters. We talked about that if we had a perfect pass we needed to run our offense as quickly as possible," Leparulo said. "The setters had a lot of trust in Alyssa and that showed."

The visitors grabbed a brief 6-5 lead in the third set, only for 2020 Gatorade player of the year Jordan Middleton to take over.

She powered down kills on four of the next five points. Hamilton now led 11-6 and maintained that five-point advantage until, at 21-16, the Lions made their last stand.

Three kills by senior opposite Kylie Davey cut the deficit to 22-20 and her fourth in the string made it 23-21. Fellow four-year varsity player Kaitlyn Neal added a kill for 23-22.

But Middleton is far from alone for the Huskies.  Along with her 18 kills, Hamilton senior outside hitter Micah Gryniewicz added 18  including the final two of the night.

"Getting here showed them what we told them all season, that if they put their heads down and worked hard it would pay off. We've really pushed the last couple of weeks about being selfless. For them to see it pay off in some of the scores tonight was big," Leparulo said. "Our seniors ... Grace (Hensel) being our undersized middle. People look at her and don't think she can play middle but she got awesome touches every night. Cayla (Gaxiola) has been our libero most of the year and most of her time at Liberty. The offense and defense we're able to run off her is phenomenal. And Adrianna (Favata) being our setter, she puts our offense in great position. Missing those seniors it is going to leave a hole for sure."

The five seniors set a new standard for the program.

Now it's time for sophomores like Forelli, Ellie Trible and Aniston Smith and freshman sensation  Tristen Raymond.

"We learned so much from our seniors and I've become really close to couple of them. They would always encourage us and push us to be our best. They've done amazing at Liberty. I want to take on that legacy. We'll be upperclassmen and will have to take up that legacy because we won't have a big senior group," Forelli said.

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