NORTH LIBERTY — In a normal year, this would have been the day that the overall Mississippi Valley Conference volleyball champion was determined.
Turned out, it was anyway. Just without the medals and postmatch photos. And it took one match, not an eight-hour, 16-team tournament.
So go ahead, crown the Liberty Lightning. In the last three days, they’ve proven MVC supremacy. Without dispute, and without debate.
Playing its 20th match in the last 22 days, Class 5A sixth-ranked Iowa City Liberty earned a couple of days off, sweeping 4A No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 25-22, 25-21, 25-18, in a match between MVC divisional champs Saturday afternoon at Liberty High School.
“We’re exhausted,” Liberty Coach Randy Dolson said. “We need a couple of days off to regroup, then we’ll have a couple of good practices Tuesday and Wednesday.”
Exhausted? Liberty (20-2) has won 12 straight matches and is 19-1 in its three-week frenzy.
“I’m really proud of the way we’ve been playing,” Liberty setter Haley Hested said. “We’ve been going, going, going. Practice, play, practice, play. It’s good to know we’ve been working hard for a reason.”
The Lightning captured the MVC Mississippi Division title Thursday with a four-set win at Cedar Falls. In a normal year, the conference tournament would have been Saturday. But as we know, there’s been nothing normal about 2020. So Liberty and Xavier scheduled this dandy, and the Lightning went out and won it.
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Liberty led throughout the opener, building a 21-12 advantage and holding on after Xavier (21-6) pulled within 22-21 and 23-22.
Lauren Roman’s free-ball kill got the Lightning to set point, then Shelby Kimm’s block won the set.
Kimm finished with six blocks to go with seven kills.
“We’ve been working on our block,” Kimm said. “We try to get together and press really hard. Coach tells up to get there fast, be on time.”
With Liberty down 19-17 in the second set, Kimm had a kill and a block and Olivia Davenport served two serves in a four-point surge to put the Lightning in front. Then, in Game 3, the Lightning scored six straight to erase an early 6-3 deficit, and played from ahead the rest of the way.
Cassidy Hartman posted a match-high 13 kills to stake the Lightning to a 39-24 advantage in that category. Hested dished out 21 assists.
Maya Karl and Bella Musick led Xavier with six kills each. Jazmine Yamilkoski had 18 assists.
Both teams open the postseason with regional semifinals Thursday.
IOWA CITY LIBERTY 3, CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER 0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-18)
At North Liberty
Serving: Xavier 58-62 (.935), Liberty 64-73 (.877)
Aces: Xavier 3 (Elsie Ridder 2), Liberty 7 (Olivia Davenport 3)
Kills: Xavier 24 (Maya Karl, Bella Musick 6), Liberty 39 (Cassidy Hartman 13)
Assists: Xavier 23 (Jazmine Yamilkoski 18), Liberty 35 (Haley Hested 21)
Blocks: Xavier 7 (Elyse Winter 3), Liberty 10 (Shelby Kimm 6)
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