By Rick Lewis
The Liberty Bell High School volleyball squad went 1 for 2 in a Central Washington B League three-way meet featuring Lake Roosevelt, Brewster and Liberty Bell on Saturday (March 6) in the Lion’s Den.
The Mountain Lions defeated the Raiders from Coulee Dam, 3-1, in a noontime match, then dropped an exciting, hard-fought battle, 3-2, to the Bears in the nightcap.
The Mountain Lions ran their season-opening set win streak to eight, winning the first two sets over Lake Roosevelt 25-16 and 25-17 on the strength of early leads.
That streak came to an end in set 3 (16-25) as the Raiders’ Audrey Hansen led the way with some solid net front line play, blocking the Lion attack and hammering home a number of kill shots in a 25-16 win.
Relying on the strength of an experienced, veteran crew, the Lions bounced back to win the fourth and deciding set, 25-18. The match featured some strong defensive play from back line player Madi Surface and solid serving from Ellie Blank. The front line play of Caitlyn Cooley, Shae Taylor and Jadyn Mitchell helped hold the Raiders at bay through most of the match.
Mitchell closed out the match with her 11th kill of the early match, putting the Lions up 25-18. Mitchell totaled 23 kills and 9 service aces over the two matches, Cooley added 15 kills and 9 aces.
Coach Christine Scott was philosophical regarding the lost set, while still winning the match. “It’s a learning thing for us,” she said. “The girls seem to grow from their losses. Their mental toughness is coming along with age and volleyball experience. They are improving.”
Those elements were evident in how the team took early control of the fourth set and didn’t look back.
Liberty Bell took a midday break as the Raiders and Bears took the court for the afternoon match. The Bears handled the Raiders in straight sets, 25-19, 25-15, 27-25.
The final match of the day between the Bears and Mountain Lions was for the early breakout leader in league play. The rival schools each entered the contest with 3-0 records, knotted at the top of the NCW2B League, and the match didn’t disappoint — although Brewster’s 25-8 victory in the first set seemed to indicate differently.
The Mountain Lions gathered themselves in time to take the second set, 25-19, before the two traded identical 25-21 set wins, Brewster in the third and Liberty Bell in the fourth. The Bears pulled away late to win the fifth set, 15-11, and take the match 3-2.
With depleted numbers in this special spring season, neither team had the customary Libero, a player who situationally and freely substitutes in and out of a match. Only two subs were available to the Bears, while Liberty Bell had only one non-starter available on the bench. Combine that with an early match and both teams were locked in a battle of skill, endurance and will.
The Mountain Lions were equal to the task. Mitchell, Cooley and Blank were strong along the net. Cooley served notably well in the later sets, and Surface again anchored the defense from the middle of the back row.
Liberty Bell dropped to 3-1 on the season, Brewster remained undefeated at 4-0. The Mountain Lions head for Manson this Saturday for another double-header of matches with Wahluke and Manson.
Albright maintains her pace
The Mountain Lion Boys fielded a scoring team at the Okanogan Golf Course Saturday (March 6) for the Okanogan High School meet, and placed third among the five competing teams.
Freshman Wil Halpin led Liberty Bell, placing 10th overall, touring the 5-kilometer (3.1 mile) course in 19 minutes, 57 seconds. Aksel Thomson and Isaiah Stoothoff placed 13th and 14th, respectively, Jackson and Tristan Schmekel crossed in the 18th and 19th spots, Kyler Mitchell was 22nd and Madison Strauss crossed 43rd in the field of 45 runners. Stoothoff, a sophomore, was the only upper classman wearing the yellow and white Liberty Bell jersey. The rest were all freshman, running in their first ever 5K race.
Mountain Lion girls Leki Albright and Sandra Hernandez ran with the boys at Okanogan as a result of a delayed team arrival at the venue. Their times, when inserted into the girls’ race results, show that Hernandez placed 10th in the field of 20 runners — and Albright’s time of 21:33 was 15 seconds faster than first-place runner Lexi LaDoux of Okanogan. The time places Albright, a freshman, in the Top 25 1B/2B rankings statewide.
Next up for is North Central Meet No. 3 at Eastmont Junior High School in East Wenatchee this Saturday, followed on March 20 by a four-school meet at Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee. Cascade (Leavenworth), Wenatchee and Cashmere will join Liberty Bell for this regional warm up meet.
Soccer keeps it close with Brewster
The Mountain Lion kickers rebounded after an opening loss at Tonasket to battle the Bears in Brewster on Tuesday (March 2). The Lions battled the rival Bears straight up for the 80-minute match, coming up just short, 2-1.
With the loss of returning letter winner and junior center Wyatt Albright to an ankle injury, and a reduced bench because of the shift in seasons, coach Katie Overbeck emphasized ball control over a quick-strike method of offense at Brewster which seemed to pay dividends.
“We have to play smart. We have to control the game with possession and slow it down,” said the first-year head coach. “Possession was in our favor. Our girls are getting more and more comfortable with holding the ball at their feet for a couple of touches before passing to a teammate.”
Albright is on a week-by-week status, currently undergoing physical therapy.
“We missed Wyatt on the field, but the team, notably McKenna Kurtz, stepped up to fill the gap,” said Overbeck. “We had some excellent passing and showed that we can outplay a team, we just need to work on finishing in the final third (of the match).” Cymone Van Marter scored the lone tally for Liberty Bell.
The Mountain Lions returned to Tonasket for a match on Tuesday (March 9) and will head to Coulee Dam for an 11 a.m. match against Lake Roosevelt on (March 13).
Lions close the gap with ACH
Football in March is for real. Liberty Bell traveled to Almira-Coulee-Hartline on Saturday to take on the Warriors in 8-man play. Liberty Bell closed out the 2019 pre-COVID season with a 56-16 loss to ACH. The contest was much different this time around, with the final score 34-16 in favor of the home team.
Coach Jeff Lidey reported that ACH jumped out to the early lead and the Lions came alive in the fourth quarter. Sawyer Crandall began the awakening with a scintillating 87-yard kickoff return for an apparent touchdown, only to have the play called back on a penalty call.
While being erased by the penalty, the play initiated a two-score rally featuring a tightrope, tippy-toed run down the sideline for a 15-yard touchdown by quarterback Riley Lidey, and a nifty pass off the double-reverse by senior wide receiver Tyler Darwood. He found Lidey as the quarterback had slipped out to the right, caught the pass, eluded one ACH tackler and galloped into the end zone. Both touchdowns were capped by two-point conversions.
Facing the challenges of limited practice space afforded by the outfield of the school’s baseball complex, and having five of his 17 roster players in their first-ever football game, Lidey was upbeat. “I believe we held our own. What we lacked in experience, we made up for by pure athleticism,” he said.
He pointed to the 34 points the Warriors scored as a positive sign for Liberty Bell’s defense. Over the past five seasons, it was only the second time ACH has been held under 40 points.
Next up for the Lions is a Thursday evening trip to Soap Lake for a tilt with the Eagles, kickoff at 7 p.m.
Spectators are not yet permitted at any events, per COVID-19 state and WIAA protocols. Activities Director Michael Wilbur has provided a free link to streamed home events: www.nfhsnetwork.com/schools/liberty-bell-juniorseniorschool-winthrop-wa.