NORTH LIBERTY — The No. 5 Iowa City Liberty Lightning didn’t just share a primary color with Avenger baddie Thanos Tuesday night in a Class 5A regional final.
No. 14 Bettendorf threw everything it had against Liberty in the third set. Both timeouts. Several substitutions. Big plays.
“I think we were just like ... 25 points, let’s get going,” senior libero Addie Schmierer said. “Let’s keep cruising.”
“It was just exciting,” sophomore middle hitter Cassidy Hartman said. “We were just doing everything right. Everything was clicking.”
The Lightning’s second straight trip to state was ... inevitable.
Liberty swept Bettendorf, 25-21, 25-18, 25-9.
“It’s a crazy feeling,” Hartman said.
Bettendorf (12-7) barely led in the first two sets, but remained a persistent thorn for Liberty (22-2).
The Bulldogs got out to a quick 5-0 lead to start the first set thanks to four Lightning attack errors and a net violation. Liberty Coach Randy Dolson jumped in with a quick timeout.
“We just needed to settle down a little bit,” Dolson said. “We worked so hard and so long for the next step. I think that might’ve got into our minds a little bit.
“We were swinging free, but not swinging smart.”
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“I wasn’t really worried,” Schmierer said. “All the things that we were struggling on, we could fix.”
Junior Gabbie Schroeder hit a pair of ace serves, and sophomore hitter Shelby Kimm and Hartman each had a pair of kills as Liberty reasserted itself and gained the lead, 9-6.
The Lightning expanded their lead to six points, but the Bulldogs cut it down to three, 23-20, on a stuff block by Izzy Vanderwille. Then Kimm and Kennedy Daugherty responded with kills to close the match.
The second set stayed close, and Liberty led 16-15 before it closed on a 9-3 run.
The aforementioned third set was tied at 4-4 before Liberty went on a 9-0 run. Bettendorf used both its timeouts, and tried subbing players in and out to halt the Lightning momentum.
Hartman finished with 13 kills, followed by Kimm with nine and Daugherty with eight. Hailey Hested had 17 assists and Mariah Rollins had 13 assists.
Schmierer had a team-best 13 digs and Schroeder had seven ace serves.
The next team to get a shot at slowing down Liberty is No. 4 West Des Moines Valley (19-6) in a 5A state quarterfinal at 12:30 p.m. Monday.
“This year I feel we are way more prepared,” Hartman said. “We can win the first round and just do way better than last year.”