Liberty’s volleyball season ended heartbreakingly close to a spot in the Class 4 state tournament.
But even amid all the sadness and tears, Blue Jays coach April Fleming could find a nice upside.
“This was a great game for them to play in,” Fleming said after Liberty lost to St. Teresa’s Academy 25-18, 25-22 in the Class 4 quarterfinals Saturday at Park Hill South. “They can say they’ve been there before and, hopefully, that gives them confidence moving forward.”
Fleming could find comfort in knowing the Blue Jays, who were vying for their first state appearance since 2014, were young — the team only had three seniors — and that some those youngsters were their biggest contributors.
It’s a group that powered Liberty to a pair of two-set victories in winning the Class 4, District 15 tournament last week.
And it drove them past Lee’s Summit West 25-20, 25-23 in a sectional matchup earlier Saturday before meeting St. Teresa’s in the quarterfinals.
Sophomore Caroline Crawford, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker, tallied a team-high 10 kills against Lee’s Summit West and tied senior middle blocker Jordan Johnson with six kills against St. Teresa’s.
Setter Meghan Schneider, another sophomore, tallied 20 assists against LS West.
With a state berth at stake, Liberty couldn’t match the depth and hitting of St. Teresa’s (25-4-2), which earned a third-straight trip to the state tournament in Cape Girardeau.
The Stars’ powerful hitting duo of Ellie Bichelmeyer and Claire Wilmot combined for four kills and an ace during a 7-0 run in the first set and, after Liberty battled back to tie the second set 21-21, two kills by Bichelmeyer put it away for the Stars.
“Their setter does a fantastic job of not giving away where she’s going to send the ball, which made it a little more tricky for out blockers,” Fleming said. “They’re a really well-balanced team and defensively they’re very, very scrappy. They’re a good team and we have to tip our hats to them.”
Just as Fleming had to tip her hat to her young Blue Jays after a 22-8-2 season.
“I’m super proud of them,” she said.
Host Park Hill South (23-7-2) fell to St. Teresa’s 28-26, 23-25, 25-19 in Saturday’s first sectional match.