By CONOR NICHOLL
Liberal enjoyed a remarkable run to the Western Athletic Conference title, its first volleyball crown since 2008. On Saturday, the Redskins hosted the five-team WAC and posted a 4-0 record. In two matches, Liberal faced a one-set deficit and was outscored in total points.
However, Liberal had big comebacks, especially against Great Bend in the day’s last match that decided the championship. The Redskins defeated Dodge City, 25-12, 25-15. The Redskins beat Garden City: 25-23, 11-25, 25-22.
Then, Liberal knocked off Hays High, 25-14, 25-23. In the final match, Liberal was down a set and two match points to Great Bend. Liberal won 18-25, 27-25, 25-23. GB is 19-14.
Liberal improved to 25-8 and captured the WAC volleyball crown for the fourth time in school history after ’06-08. Unlike some other leagues, the WAC volleyball title is crowned in a one-day, four-match tournament instead of competitions throughout the regular season.
On Saturday, Liberal plays host to a 6A sub-state that features Topeka High (8-24), Wichita North (16-13) and Campus (11-21). Liberal has a great chance to reach the state tournament for the first time since ’08, according to KSHSAA archives.
Per longtime LHS radio broadcaster Brock Kappelmann, this marks the first time Liberal volleyball has hosted sub-state since 2013. LHS lost to Wichita North in three sets in the season-opening tournament Aug. 27.
Coach Katie Garcia, a LHS graduate, has helped turn around the Redskin program. Liberal had a single figure winning season in ’18 and was sub-.500 in ’19 and ’20.
Last year, Liberal opened 0-10 and finished went 19-16, including a 3-1 record at WAC. However, Hays High defeated Liberal in two sets and won the tiebreaker for the league title. LHS graduated Bree Horyna, a three-sport standout and WAC volleyball player of the year.
This fall, Liberal opened the fall 5-4, including a three-set loss to Great Bend on Sept. 1. Liberal won 12 straight matches until a four-set loss to Garden City on Sept. 11.
Then, the Redskins rebounded to win the conference. Liberal is 7-4 in three-set matches this year. This yielded the third straight season a different team has won WAC volleyball.
Liberal, who has enjoyed great success in girls’ basketball, has several multi-sport athletes. Seniors Lizzy Cisneros, Rachelle Terrazas and Rylie Hallman are the team captains. The 5-foot-3 Cisneros has cleared 2,000 career digs.
Senior Jenna Ormiston and junior Paris Bond are key players, along with juniors Keyona Hall and Elle Hatcher, seniors Alondra Garcia and Arianna Hubbard, freshman Shamari Lewis, and junior Hailey Contreras.
Hallman is a returning first team all-league, and Cisneros was second team all-league.
Cisneros is one of Kansas’ best defensive players and stat leaders for all classes. Cisneros has 543 serve-receptions and 410 digs. Cisneros has a team-high 65 aces, with Hallman at 53 and Terrazas at 39.
Terrazas has 390 assists, while Hallman has 237. For kills, Hallman leads at 219, and Ormiston has 188 with Hall at 137. Hallman paces with 56 blocks, while Lewis at 54 and Hatcher with 29.
LHS has played Garden City five times this fall. The Redskins have a 4-1 record against the rival Buffs, including the four-set loss on Oct. 11.
Liberal is 4-0 against Dodge City. Saturday marked the first time the Redskins had faced Hays High this year.