XC, volleyball, football teams claim wins
By Rick Lewis
In a year that has certainly been topsy-turvy, the “fall” sports season at Liberty Bell High School, and in the state of Washington, has drawn to a close with the past week’s action.
The cross country teams traveled to Wenatchee for a North Central Regional Championship, where all classes of schools from the 1B/2B level all the way up through 4A schools raced against each other. It was the only event that resembled a form of a post-season championship.
Volleyball and girls’ soccer each closed the season at home on Saturday (April 3), with Tonasket and Pateros visiting the Lions’ Den in volleyball and soccer entertaining the Omak Pioneers on the home pitch. The football team traveled to Chelan for a season-ending game that was organized on the spur of the moment.
Girls’ soccer falls to Omak
The Liberty Bell girls closed out their season with a 4-1 loss at the feet of the Omak Pioneers. The home team’s already smallish numbers were further depleted by spring break. Liberty Bell fielded only nine players against the Pioneers’ full 11-position complement.
In the first half, Liberty Bell held its own, playing Omak straight up after giving up an early goal on the first Pioneer possession 20 seconds post-kickoff. At halftime, Liberty Bell was down by 1-nil.
Solid defense was complemented by several offensive chances. Maisy Shaw had shots on goal, and Sophia Newton and Jess Dinham also fired the ball toward Omak goalkeeper Kacie Vejraska, each time being turned away. In the second half, approximately at the 9:30 mark, Liberty Bell scored its lone goal, a shot by Lillian Overbeck off of a pass from Wyatt Albright for the tally.
MacKenna Kurtz, filling in at the net for the Mountain Lions, held her own in the first half, turning away several shots on goal. Strong defensive efforts were also turned in by Dinham and senior defender Megan Voigt. Voigt took a hard shot off her face midway through the half, left the field to be checked out and returned in the second half with a chipped tooth but no other injuries.
Being short two players put the Mountain Lions at a significant disadvantage, particularly in the second half as the match wore on and legs grew weary.
“It has been a tough season and honestly, the girls have inspired me to keep the spirits high when the scoring was low,” said first-year head coach Katie Overbeck. “They have continued to impress me with their spirit and grit, both of which can be a lesson for all of us during this pandemic.”
With the low turnout, lingering snowpack and lack of a playing field for much of the season, Overbeck’s charges were undaunted. The coach kept the message consistent: “Keep wearing your flexible pants, we never know what this season will bring us.”
Senior recognition at halftime celebrated the efforts of three Mountain Lions, including first-year player Bella Chrastina, and veterans Megan Voigt and Cymone Van Marter.
A win for boys’ XC
The Liberty Bell boys stepped it up a notch at the North Central Washington Regional Championships, taking the top spot among the 1B/2B schools by edging the league champion Manson Trojans at Wenatchee’s Walla Walla Point Park on April 1. The Mountain Lions’ 239 total points was good for 8th-place overall in the team standings. Manson was 9th at 244, Brewster 11th (260), Tonasket 12th (312), Lake Roosevelt 13th (390) and Cascade Christian (Wenatchee) 14th (401).
The Liberty Bell girls, battling some nagging injury issues all spring, did not field a complete team of five runners for scoring in the team placings. Seniors Liv Aspholm (22nd, 22:28) and Lena Nelson (56th, 25:07) closed out their high school careers, and freshman Sandra Hernandez (65th, 26:28) continued her initial season improvement track. Promising freshman Leki Albright was sidelined, as was senior Keeley Brooks, both by leg issues.
“The team had a great final meet last week,” noted Coach Erik Brooks, “with all of the boys and most of the girls running their best times of the year.”
“Liv [Aspholm] avoided the temptation to go out too fast, tucked into a solid pack of runners and battled well to the finish,” he said of the senior. “Sandra [Hernandez] put an exclamation point on her 9th-grade year,” as she bettered her 5K personal record by 30 seconds. “Lena [Nelson]fought admirably through a series of side stitches and capped off an excellent career at Liberty Bell by demonstrating the will and determination necessary to finish.”
Aksel Thomson, Will Halpin and Isaiah Stoothoff were the best top three runners on a team of 1B/2B runners in the boys’ competition, which was a key factor in their winning performance. Tristan Schmekel was 50 seconds faster than any time earlier this season, including an earlier race two weeks ago on the same course. Kyler Mitchell ran the 3.1 miles 30 seconds faster than his previous fastest time at that distance, and Madison Strauss ran in the mid-25 minute range, improving his time by almost three full minutes.
“We just did a really good job of racing the people around us and running the race that we were given,” said Brooks, referring to the format for the boys’ race which included two flights separated by an interval at the start, timed independently.
Seniors Aspholm, Nelson and Keeley Brooks completed their cross country careers having been to the state championship meet in 2017, ’18 and ’19, winning two team state championships and placing second in November 2019, the last WIAA championship meet before COVID-19 altered everything.
The junior high/middle school cross country season finished at Okanogan Golf Course on March 31. Liberty Bell faced Okanogan, Brewster, Manson, Nespelem and Lake Roosevelt. Dexter Delaney (7:40) and Boden Thomson (8:25) led the way for the field and the Mountain Lions, placing 1-2 in the boys’ 1.5-mile race. Tristan Hover (8:52) placed 5th out of the 26 runners.
Liberty Bell did not have the necessary five runners to place as a scoring team. Okanogan took the team title over Manson, followed by Lake Roosevelt in third.
The girls did have a full team of six runners and dominated the field for the win, scoring 22 points to Omak’s 43 and Manson’s 58. Seventh-grader Marit Nelson ran away with the title, circling the 1.5-mile course in 9:34. Nella Belcher (10:24) placed 3rd, Samra Newton (10:27) was 4th and Marta Schkrohowsky placed 5th. Zoe Kaltenbach completed the scoring team in 12th place, followed by Greta Schumacher (14:21) and Layla Buzzard (16:31).
Coach Liam Daily was pleased with the effort. “It was an undefeated season for the girls’ team,” he said. “They had the individual winner in three of their four races this year. The boys also had he individual winner in three races. It was unfortunate they never had enough for a scoring team this year.”
Volleyball ends with split
The Mountain Lions split their matches of a triple-header on Saturday, defeating the Tonasket Tigers 3-0 (25-20, 25-10 and 25-16) in a late morning match, and dropping a hotly contested 1-3 set loss (23-25, 25-23, 22-25 and 19-25) match to Pateros in the nightcap.
Highlighted by some extended rallies, excellent front line play and exciting defensive digs, the first three sets against Pateros could have gone either way. The Nannies pulled away late in the fourth to clinch the match.
Consistent with the rest of the season, Liberty Bell was led by Jadyn Mitchell in kills and blocks on the front line. Joslyn Rispone and Ellie Blank had some solid performances serving.
It was senior recognition day in the Lions’ Den for only one Liberty Bell spiker, four-year letter winner Madison Surface. Coach Christine Scott described Surface as “a very athletic player who started out playing just the back row, using her quickness to scramble for off-speed balls and digs.” By her senior year, Surface had worked her way into the full rotation, blocking, hitting and serving consistently and well.
“Madi has been a great asset to Liberty Bell volleyball with her heart and hustle, and her ‘leaving it all out on the court’ mentality,” according to Scott.
Surface plans to head for college in the fall, aiming toward a career in law enforcement as a police officer. But first, we’ll see her on the softball field this spring with her dad, Chad, coaching.
Liberty Bell football planned to close the season out, and celebrate senior recognitions, 65 miles away at Bridgeport on April 2. COVID protocols at Bridgeport forced cancelation of that game, and some last-minute phone calls and game rules adjustments sent the Mountain Lions to Chelan on Thursday for their season-ending Senior Night celebration and game.
“Chelan was very kind in offering their field for the program to celebrate our seniors”, said Liberty Bell Activities Director Michael Wilbur.
Chelan, a class 1A school that plays the traditional 11-man version while the Mountain Lions have been in the B8 class for several years, presented an opportunity in creativity, so the coaches put together a game plan that featured the eight-man game when Liberty Bell was on offense and 11-man format when the Goats had the ball. The result was similar to the last three Liberty Bell games, a 45-0 win for the 4th-ranked Mountain Lions.
It was Liberty Bell’s second straight shutout, and brought their season record to 4-1, the only loss being in their first game to No. 2 Almira-Coulee-Hartline.
Spring sports open up this week with practices beginning for baseball, softball, tennis and track and field. We will be previewing each of those sports next week, with early baseball action getting underway on Tuesday (April 13) as the Mountain Lions entertain the Warriors of Almira-Coulee-Hartline. First pitch is at 4:30 p.m. COVID protocols for outdoor events under Phase 3, masks and distancing, will be required.