CEDAR RAPIDS — The climb continues. And there’s no reason to believe Iowa City Liberty has peaked yet.
Just a fourth-year program, fifth-ranked Liberty ascended to a new height Monday afternoon, topping No. 4 West Des Moines Valley, 25-20, 20-25, 25-17, 26-24, in a Class 5A quarterfinal at the state volleyball tournament Monday afternoon at Alliant Energy PowerHouse.
Welcome to the land of the elite.
“That first year, we didn’t know what we were getting into, so it was ‘let’s play for fun,’” senior libero Addie Schmierer said. “The second year, we wanted to win 20 matches.
“Last year, we wanted to get to the state tournament, and this year, we want to win a state championship.”
At this point, heck, why not?
“If you go into coaching and you don’t have goals, you probably shouldn’t be coaching at the high school level,” Coach Randy Dolson said.
Liberty (23-2) will face No. 1 West Des Moines Dowling (22-2) in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The Maroons topped No. 8 Dubuque Hempstead in four sets Monday.
The Lightning clinched their first-round win by rallying from a 20-13 deficit in the fourth set.
Sophomore Cassidy Hartman had three kills and Lauren Roman collected two blocks as the Lightning battled back to tie it, 24-24, then Schmierer capped the rally with back-to-back aces.
“I wanted to serve cross-court and deep, so they had to work,” Schmierer said.
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Both of Roman’s late blocks came against Valley all-stater Hayden Kubik, arguably the state’s best junior, who finished with 25 kills.
“I’m just super excited right now,” said Roman, another senior who has been with the program from the start. “I’m excited to be leaving a legacy.
“We have really good team chemistry. We rely on each other and believe in each other, and that’s why we were able to come back.”
You could call Hartman a smiling assassin. The sophomore led the Lightning with 17 kills, and did all of her damage with a grin.
“Last year when we came here, we had a lot of nerves,” she said. “We just wanted to play our game and have fun doing it.”
Hartman’s ace capped a four-point run at the end of the first set that allowed Liberty to pull away from a 21-20 edge. After Valley (19-7) squared the match, the Lightning led Game 3 throughout.
Kennedy Daugherty added eight kills, Shelby Kimm seven, Sam Harvey six. Haley Hested and Mariah Rollins combined for 36 assists, and Roman counted seven blocks.
Anna Bernhard added 11 kills for Valley.
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