LEMOORE — In volleyball there’s no such thing as a perfect game, but Liberty came about as close as a team can get — and the Patriots did at the perfect time, sweeping Clovis West on Saturday to win the Central Section’s Division I volleyball championship at Golden Eagle Arena.
“Everybody just played so, so good,” Liberty junior Lauryn Burt said. “Our hitters played great, the sets were all crazy good, back row was digging incredible, just everyone on the team.”
The result: An amazingly low attack totals of nine attack errors and a 25-17, 31-29, 25-19 sweep that gave Liberty its first D-I title.
The school won back-to-back Division II titles in its early years, including a D-II state championship in 2002, but it was 0 for 2 in previous attempts at scaling the D-I mountain — including a sweep at the hands of Clovis East a year ago.
Almost the entire roster from that loss was back, and a couple of individuals had experienced earlier championship heartbreak, too. Outside hitter Brooklynn Cheney lost in the section finals as a freshman at Tehachapi, and coach Amy Parker twice had lost championship matches as an assistant at Bakersfield High.
“It feels so awesome,” Cheney said.
“We wanted to get it done. We had to come in with the right mindset.”
It also was the first Division I championship for a Kern County girls team since Centennial’s volleyball team won a title in May 2014.
Liberty (25-7) trailed Clovis West (34-10) in the first set 13-10 before winning 15 of the next 19 points to close the set going away.
The second set, clearly, was key to the match. It was also incredibly well-played and tense, with eight lead changes and 19 ties, including at every stop from 15-15 all the way up to 29-29, when Liberty finally won two consecutive points.
“It was a huge, huge game for both teams,” Parker said. “The level of play on both sides was great. It was just side-out after side-out. In the old system (in which teams only scored points on their own serve), nobody would have been scoring points. And it wasn’t errors. We were both putting balls to the floor.”
The Patriots made one attack error in the set’s 60 points, several of which featured rallies that lasted longer than 30 seconds.
“Those rallies were what Valley championships should look like,” Clovis West coach Rhonda DeRuiter said. “Liberty won those because they played so much cleaner than we did.”
In the third set, Liberty earned some breathing room with a 12-3 run in which Elise Ferreira had four kills. That gave the Patriots a 19-12 lead, and Clovis West couldn’t get closer than four points the rest of the way.
Ferreira had 17 kills and 10 digs and Cheney 13 kills and 12 digs. Burt made 17 assists with 4 kills and 2 aces, and Emma Reynolds made 23 assists. Lanie Caroccio made 14 digs.
For Clovis West, Micah Hebert led the way with 14 kills, and Aubrey Olson made 23 digs.
But in the end, the Golden Eagles were no match for Liberty, who were close to perfect on the best night possible.
“It was super-intense and super-fun,” Cheney said. “We’re like family; I love everyone on this team, and I’m so glad I get to experience this with all of them.”