NORTH LIBERTY — The Liberty Lightning had match point, on the verge of a sweep. They got their hottest hitter a swing to end it.
But Delaney Rice blocked it, and as it turned out, the Lightning wouldn’t get another such opportunity.
Rice’s block triggered a comeback in Game 3, and Marion rode the wave of momentum all the way back for a five-set victory (18-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-11) in a Class 4A regional-semifinal volleyball match Tuesday night at Liberty High School.
“That was insane,” Marion’s Holly Faley said after the 2-hour, 12-minute match. “(Liberty) put up such a good fight, but everybody stepped up for us. Our setter (Elise Mehaffy) ... she’s just a little freshman, and she was just killing it out there for us.”
Marion (20-19) advances to Monday’s regional final at No. 5 Independence, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.
Down two sets and trailing 24-23 in the third, Marion was on the verge of postseason extinction. No. 13 Liberty (19-15) had been riding middle hitter Olivia Slattery late in the third set; the sophomore had ended the Lightning’s previous five points with kills.
They went to her again at match point, but the 6-foot-2 Rice made a play that extended the match — and ultimately, the Indians’ season.
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“Huge would be an understatement,” Marion Coach Roxanne Paulsen said. “We had a tough time slowing (Slattery) down. That was a huge block. Without it, it’s over.”
An ace by Kaitlyn Sennett-Heims and a Liberty hitting error ended the set, then the Indians capitalized on their new life. They scored the first four points of Game 4 and led the whole way, then tallied three in a row for a 4-2 lead in the finale and played from ahead the rest of the way.
“It was a tough locker room, no doubt about it,” Liberty Coach Randy Dolson said. “We played a really clean match through the first couple sets, then we made too many unforced errors.
“It was a good year for us. We’ll keep growing.”
Faley led the Indians with 20 kills, and Rice added 16 for the winners. Mehaffy distributed 55 assists.
Slattery’s 24 kills were a match high. Lee Ann Potter tacked on 16 for Liberty, and Hailey Hested’s 64 assists put her over 1,000 for her career, and she’s just a sophomore.
MARION 3, IOWA CITY LIBERTY 2 (18-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-19, 15-11)
4A Regional Semifinal, at Liberty
Serving — Marion 97-104 (.933), Liberty 94-104 (.904).
Aces — Marion 2 (Elise Mehaffy, Kaitlyn Sennett-Heims), Liberty 5 (Sydney Woods 2).
Kills — Marion 61 (Holly Faley 20), Liberty 70 (Olivia Slattery 24).
Assists — Marion 58 (Mehaffy 55), Liberty 67 (Hailey Hested 64).
Blocks — Marion 8 (Delaney Rice 4), Liberty 7 (Lauren Roman 3).
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