Christine Scott, in her fifth year as the Liberty Bell High School volleyball coach, is optimistic about her charges this fall, and she has a lot to work with.
Scott’s preference is to have eight to nine players per unit, six on the court with two to three on the bench for substitutions. With 24 athletes in the program, she has enough hitters, defenders, blockers and liberos to fill out varsity, junior varsity and “C” squad rosters this year.
Several players return after taking the March-April 2020 adjusted season off, and a flock of freshman have invaded from the junior high ranks this year.
Scott also has a strong and experienced senior class, headed by co-captains Jadyn Mitchell and Shae Taylor. Mitchell is a force at the net as a middle hitter/blocker and is flanked by Taylor on the outside of the front row, a specialist in power kill shots and soft drop shots in front of would-be blockers. Seniors Joslyn Rispone and Caitlyn Cooley have spent time as back row defenders in the past, but that may well change this year as Scott looks to find a front line replacement for junior Ellie Blank. Cooley could spend more time in the front row, and expect the experienced Rispone to contribute significantly defensively, and get some front row time as well.
Blank injured the medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in her right knee and will be undergoing surgery to repair both. Blank is also a standout tennis player and was injured at a summer tennis camp at the University of Washington as few weeks ago.
“She’s doing fine, but is really missing volleyball,” said her mother, Beth Blank. “It’s going to be a nine-month recovery period for her, but we are really hoping she can be ready for tennis in the spring.”
Scott said that filling the hole left by Blank’s absence will be difficult. “She’s an all-around player and a leader on the floor,” the coach said. “The girls understand the loss and I think we’ll be OK.”
Sophomores Pearl McArthur and Bailey Thomson had some quality playing time last season and look to get more in the back row defense this year. Incoming freshman Rio Lott has also garnered some early attention. Seniors Hazel Culpsmith and Elanna Doran are back after conflicting schedules took them out of their COVID-adjusted junior seasons, and have quickly adjusted through early season drills. They will provide some additional height to the front row. The libero position, a roaming, free-substituting player that usually comes in defensively, has yet to be determined.
As always, the North Central B League is very competitive. Okanogan and Brewster are always strong and this year is no different. Liberty Bell’s senior experience will serve them well, and Manson showed they were capable of throwing a scare into the top of the league last season. This season should be very competitive for the top four spots and could come down to the last matches for seeding to the district tournament.
Scott’s hopes for the team include advancing to the district tournament and beyond, hopefully gaining an invitation to the state championship tournament in Yakima’s Sundome in November. A trip to the Sundome in mid-September is on tap for the Mountain Lions, scheduled so they can get an early taste of a larger tournament in a big venue.
The Mountain Lions are on the road for the first two full weeks of the season, opening on Sept. 8 at Bridgeport. The first home match is Sept. 21, when they entertain the Trojans from Manson. Weekday volleyball matches usually get underway with sub-varsity action at 5 p.m. and varsity scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
If senior leadership is a key to success, then the Mountain Lion girls’ soccer program is the locksmith shop of Liberty Bell High School athletics. Eleven seniors make up about half of the 24 athletes on the Liberty Bell roster. Gone to graduation are two seasoned veterans in Megan Voigt and Cymone Van Marter, but any number of this year’s elder class appear ready to share situational leadership responsibilities.
In sharp contrast to the start of the 2020 season, the girls opened practice under a warm August sun and on the green grass of the Liberty Bell practice field. No frigid 30 degree temperatures, no parking lot pavement or gym hardwood surfaces, no snow. Skies were mostly clear and the air was clean.
Second-year head coach Katie Overbeck is anxious to see what this team has to offer. Drilling the fundamentals and sharpening mechanics and skills are top priorities for the coach. With that, and having fun while learning, she believes the wins will come.
“The desire for making it to districts or state has to come from them,” Overbeck said. “I feel like they are growing and coming together as a team.”
“My goals for the team are pretty simple,” the coach added. “I want them to learn, have fun, and make friends.”
“It’s hard to say who will step up to take a leadership role,” Overbeck continued. “All 11 seniors will take on some sort of leadership role whether it is on the field, on the sidelines and in practice.”
Some names come to mind. Seniors Wyatt Albright and Mackenna Kurtz have been with the Lions all four years and seem, early on, to be at the forefront in practices.
Volunteer assistant Paul Niccolazzo has been working with the goalkeepers, three of whom are competing for the starting job. Juniors Chloe Sprauer and Ruby McCarthy spent some time in goal last year, Sprauer also getting some work in as a freshman two years ago. Kurtz, having perhaps the most experience at in the net, is also working hard and as of week one, there was no indication from Overbeck who might have the edge.
Positions on the rest of the field had yet to be determined. With 24 athletes working out, Overbeck and second-year assistant Annie Saunders will focus on skills to determine who plays in the forward, midfield and defensive portions of the pitch. There is some good speed up front in sophomore Lillian Overbeck and seniors Maisy Shaw and Elke Wathen. Albright brings some good ball-handling and passing skills and has played in the midfield in the past, the defensive corps is looking for that group who can stop, take control and move the ball up the field in quick transition.
All in all, it looks to be a better year in the win-loss column for Liberty Bell.
And more …
• By the numbers: You may have noticed a common thread through the Liberty Bell sports programs this fall: Twenty-four athletes are turning for the soccer, volleyball and football programs. The cross country program is in the same general area. Add the junior high numbers, and there are approximately 150 students participating in interscholastic activities this fall season.
• Schedules and information are available by accessing the Methow Valley School District’s website at www.methow.org. On the left margin of the home page there is a list of clickable links, one of which is labeled “athletics.” Click on that link and find the icon for each sport, which will take you to schedules, results and a link to any streaming services being offered for games.
• District and state tournaments are back this year after a one-year absence. State cross country is slated for Nov. 6 in Pasco, volleyball is in Yakima on Nov. 11-12, girls’ soccer semis and finals are at Sumner on Nov. 19-20, and the football semi-finals are scheduled for Nov. 27 with the Gridiron Classic games around the state on Dec. 4.