The high school volleyball season is barely two weeks old, and it's much too early to be talking about playoffs.
Heck, teams haven’t even started league play and the Central Section championship match is almost two months away.
But that didn’t stop the Liberty gymnasium from rocking Thursday night.
The Patriots scored early and often — keeping a large, energetic student section busy — overcame a temporary lull, and then rolled to a 25-12, 18-25, 25-17, 25-21 victory over previously unbeaten Clovis North.
“I think mentally and emotionally it was super important for us,” said Liberty coach Amy Parker, whose team earned an important victory toward possible playoff seeding later in the year. “We were so excited to be at home and not have to travel. They were super hyped, and super excited and I knew coming in that we were in a good place. And we knew that if we did what we wanted to do, that we had a chance to win.”
The meeting was a rematch of Saturday’s title game of the Clovis Challenge. The Broncos (8-1) outplayed Liberty (9-1) in Clovis then, but not Thursday, and not in Bakersfield.
“I think (losing on Saturday) just hyped us up for this game,” Liberty junior Brynna Slayton said. “We knew this game would be more important than a tournament win, and this would affect our seeding for playoffs, so we knew we had to come out and win.”
Slayton had a big part in the Patriots accomplishing that, contributing heavily in nearly every statistical category. She finished with a team-high 15 kills, and added 16 assists and 13 digs, but her play seemed to elevate when her team needed her the most.
With the match tied at one set apiece, Liberty jumped out to a 9-2 lead, only to allow Clovis North to run off six of the next seven points. The Broncos pulled with 10-8 on a kill by Laney Admundsen.
Slayton followed with a kill of a dump shot, and then another a few moments later, and then added an ace to help the Patriots regain control en route to a 25-17 win and 2-1 lead in the match.
“I feel like I definitely stepped it up,” Slayton said. “I knew I had to play for the team. We knew we had to play for each other. It’s always about each other and it’s never about yourself. I knew (the shot) was open and I knew I had to get a point, and put the ball on the floor, so …”
Slayton had almost half her kill total in the Game 4 finale — seven — which helped erase an 18-14 Broncos’ lead and put the Patriots in position to close out the match. Sutton Coffey finished things off with an ace and the Liberty faithful rushed the floor in celebration.
“If you asked the kids they would say that everything we’ve done the last two days in practice is to play this match (Thursday night),” Parker said. “Whatever we did on Tuesday and whatever we did on Wednesday was specifically to play Clovis North. And they did the same thing in their practices this week.
“I thought that we executed our game plan, and other than in Game 2, we executed what we wanted to do really well, and so I really feel like what we practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday translated to Thursday.”
Paige Camarillo had 10 kills, Jaleesa Caroccio had a team-high 21 digs, and Carisa Barron added eight kills and a team-high 17 assists for the Patriots, who host Clovis West on Tuesday.