Liberty volleyball's early-season momentum lost a bit of steam on Saturday when the Patriots dropped a hard-fought match to Clovis North in the title game of the Clovis Challenge.
As luck would have it, Liberty (8-1) didn't have to wait long — five days to be precise — for a chance to get back on track. The Patriots host the Broncos (8-0) on Thursday at 6:15 p.m.
“A lot of times when you play a team from Clovis in a non-league match in September, you may or may not see them the rest of the season, and if you do, it would be in the playoffs,” said Liberty coach Amy Parker, whose team is ranked No. 2 in Central Section Division I according to maxpreps.com. Clovis North is No. 1. “To play a team from Clovis on Saturday, and then be able to turn around and be able to play them at home on that same Thursday after taking a loss, it’s a cool opportunity and it’s not something that happens very often.
“Who would have thought? It just worked out that way. We’ve had Clovis North since I started at Liberty and it’s always a great matchup. Luckily for us, this time we don’t have to travel up there, and we get to play them at home.”
Things started well for Liberty on Saturday when it took the opening set, 26-24, but the match turned around in a hurry in Game 2.
Clovis North cruised to a 25-13 win to even the match and then pulled away in the finale, 15-11, to post the victory.
“They have hitters all the way across the front row,” Parker said. “So they can set any of the hitters at any time or any position. On a really good pass to the setter, they get a lot of one-on-one opportunities with their hitters because you have to hold off and see where the ball goes.
“We had our chances in the third set. It was tight until double digits and then they scored a few points in a row and pulled away.”
It was the first loss to the Broncos during Parker’s four-plus years at Liberty. Clovis North had lost the previous six meetings, failing to win a set, with its last victory coming in 2014 the year before Parker took over.
“It was a really good match on Saturday,” said Parker, who has guided Liberty to the Division I semifinals the past two seasons. “I think we both played well at points and we both wished we would have played a little better at points. It was super competitive with some really fun, long rallies where neither team wanted to let the ball hit the floor.
“I expect nothing less (Thursday) night when we play them. It will be a battle. My kids are super excited about (playing them) and we’re expecting a big crowd. It should be fun.”