A consistent theme throughout Liberty Bell High School athletics this spring has been an emphasis on the youth movement, and the Mountain Lion tennis program is no exception.
Head Coach Dave Schulz is the one anomaly, heading up the program for the 60th year, which includes coaching at both Twisp and Liberty Bell High Schools.
The current tennis program is a little thin, but numbers have increased through the COVID-adjusted season. There are no juniors or seniors, so the experience level is limited. But there is potential, and assistant coach Keri Miles smiles when thinking of what the team might look like in the next two to four years.
Sophomore Ellie Blank brings a powerful serve and smooth stroke to her game. After losing her freshman year to the early pandemic shutdown, Blank is having success in her first year as a high school player. She has won most of her matches, and in tandem with freshman Amelia Evans is near the top of the league in doubles play.
On the boys’ side, sophomores Ezekiel Kirk and Angel Arellano are the top Mountain Lion pair, and “EZ” is winning his singles matches with regularity. Joining them in recent weeks, and steadily improving, are eighth-graders Malcolm Bosco, Asher Odell, and Kaden Somerville-Borowski, freshman Gannet Fisher, and sophomores Connor Herlihy and Nathan Buck.
Even seventh-grader Gavin Blank got in one match so far this year, an “exhibition” match against Oroville, teaming up with Buck to record a non-counting victory.
The two week, season-ending period is extremely busy for the young Lion netters. In action last week, they faced Manson on Wednesday, Soap Lake on Saturday and Tonasket on Monday. Tuesday (May 11) had them hosting Pateros, results too late for publication. Wednesday (May 12) finds them traveling to Oroville, and on Saturday (May 15) they close out the season at home against the Raiders of Lake Roosevelt.
• Liberty Bell vs. Manson: Ellie Blank and Amelia Evans led the way for Liberty Bell, each winning their singles matches, Blank 6-0, 6-0, Evans 6-1, 6-2. They closed out the sweep of the Trojans by teaming up for doubles and taking that match, 6-0, 6-1. The boys had a tougher day, with Manson winning every match, but not without some resistance. “Rookie players Connor Herlihy and Nathan Buck played especially well together in their first official doubles match,” said Miles. “They showed considerable improvement since their first practice only three weeks ago.”
• Liberty Bell at Soap Lake: This match featured a single “pro-set” format. Blank and Evans continued their winning ways, each winning their singles matches and then teaming up to sweep the doubles match. The boys had some success with Arellano and Kirk losing close pro-sets by 4-8 and 6-8 scores, respectively, but then joining forces to win the doubles match, 8-2. Miles credited Kirk with shaking up the game with his power and topspin shots, and Arellano with stamina and consistency in outlasting the Eagles pairs team. Playing in only his second match, Fisher picked up his first career win, coming back from a 1-4 deficit to win, 8-6.
• Liberty Bell vs. Tonasket: The Tigers had a little more firepower and more experience than the young Mountain Lions, but several matches were very competitive, including Blank’s showdown with Tonasket’s Skylar Hardesty, who won 6-2, 6-2. But Blank took the seasoned veteran to extra play in a number of games, forcing deuce after deuce. Bosco earned his first varsity victory, 6-1, 6-3. “He showed hustle and smart play,” said Miles. “We look forward to seeing him develop in the coming years.”
Blank and Evans bounced back to a solid 6-0, 6-0 win in girls’ doubles while Fisher and Buck joined forces to win 6-4, 6-4 in boys’ doubles action. Earning their first career win on Monday was the Mountain Lion team of eighth-graders Asher Odell and Kaden Somerville-Borowski, an 8-0 pro-set win
The Mountain Lions bounced back in the penultimate week of this year’s COVID-impacted to win three games by a combined score of 61-0 in straight shutout victories: a 28-0 pasting of Pateros on May 6, and an 18-0, 15-0 double-header sweep against visiting Omak.
The trip to Pateros was a mercy rule-shortened, four-inning affair highlighted by Noah Holston’s home run and Quinn Wengerd’s four-inning no-hit outing over the Billygoats.
Mountain Lion pitchers David Kominak and Dusty Patterson teamed up to shut down the Pioneers on ’49ers Day in the first game, while youth took over in the nightcap as eighth-graders Lucien Paz and Mac Surface combined for a three-hit gem in shutting out Omak 15-0.
“We got to play a lot of our younger kids,” said coach David Aspholm, “so that was a good thing.”
Liberty Bell’s Senior Recognition game was this Tuesday (May 11) against visiting Almira-Coulee-Hartline, with two road trips to close out the season on Wednesday for a JV/varsity double-header at Tonasket and Saturday’s trip to Okanogan for a varsity double-header.
Softball hopes for action
Liberty Bell was forced to cancel both scheduled double-headers this past week as injuries sidelined enough players to make it impossible for the Mountain Lions to field the nine players required to field a team. The Lions were scheduled to face Oroville on Thursday and Lake Roosevelt on Friday.
After canceling the first three games off their schedule as a result of COVID tracing protocols (no players were reported as testing positive), and rescheduling their Oroville double-header around ’49ers Day, coach Chad Surface was optimistic on Monday at the team’s practice/banquet night regarding the scheduled season-ending double-header at Almira-Coulee-Hartline on Saturday.
“I hope we’ll be able to [play Saturday],” Surface said with a shrug and a tentative smile. “We’re planning on it, right now, anyway.”
Soccer boys triumph
After dropping a 7-0 decision at Brewster last Tuesday, the Mountain Lions returned to the win column over the visiting Pateros Billygoats on May 4, taking the match by 6-3 after jumping out to a 5-0 halftime lead.
Coach Dave Marz was pleased with the effort. “We got off to a good start and played really good defense in the first half,” he said. Season-long goalkeeper Raiff Reichert’s injury incurred at Warden the week before turned out worse than initially suspected, and has forced him to the bench for the rest of the season.
Against Pateros, senior co-captain Travis Grialou sparkled in the net during the first half, shutting down the visitors and impressing the coach.
Recognition for this year’s seniors was on Tuesday (May 11) when the Billygoats returned for a third time to face Liberty Bell in Mountain Lion Stadium. That match concluded after press time. On Thursday, the Warden Cougars travel to Liberty Bell for a 4 p.m. kickoff .The Lions will be seeking revenge for an earlier 12-1 loss at the hands of Warden in the 2021 home finale. Liberty Bell closes out the season at Oroville on Saturday.
Final laps for track
Liberty Bell traveled to Manson on Thursday (May 6) for the CWB League meet, the last before the season-closing meets at Wenatchee High School on Friday (May 14) and Eastmont on Saturday. Top five finishers for the boys at Manson included fifth-place Kyler Mitchell in the 400-meter run, Isaiah Stoothoff (second) in the 800M, Will Halpin and Aksel Thomson (4th and 5th, respectively) in the 1,600M, and Halpin and Thomson taking second and third in the 3,200M. The Liberty Bell 4x400M relay team of Halpin, Mitchell, Stoothoff and Thomson placed third, Marshall Budrow was fifth in the shot put and Stoothoff cleared 5 feet, 2 inches to share the title in the high jump.
On the girls’ side, Sandra Hernandez placed 5th in the 400M, Keeley Brooks won the title in the 800M in a season-best time of 2:33.23, and Leki Albright was third in the 800M. Albright and Lena Nelson placed 2nd and 3rd in the 1,600M, and the Mountain Lion 4x400M relay (4:40.51) team placed second behind Okanogan.
Next up for the Mountain Lion tracksters are split-team events, Friday at Wenatchee and on Saturday the North Central All-Classes Super Regional at Eastmont High School. The top three finishers from each league meet will face off while the remainder of the athletes compete at Wenatchee on Friday afternoon.
Qualifying for the Saturday championships at Eastmont are Brooks and Albright in the 800M, Albright and Nelson in the 1,600M, and the girls’ 4x400M relay team of Albright, Brooks, Nelson and Hernandez. Stoothoff leads the way for Liberty Bell to Eastmont, qualifying in the high jump and 800M. Halpin and Thomson will run in the 3,200M and will join Stoothoff and Mitchell on the 4x400M relay team in the championships on Saturday.