Prep Volleyball

Pleasant Valley makes Liberty's first state volleyball appearance a brief one

Spartans' serve and block game too much for Lightning in a 5A quarterfinal upset

CEDAR RAPIDS — This was Iowa City Liberty’s first trip to the state volleyball tournament, but it was Randy Dolson’s 10th. He knows what can happen inside the U.S. Cellular Center.

“Sometimes, this place can eat you up a little bit,” he said.

Pleasant Valley joined in on the feast.

The seventh-ranked Spartans blocked and served No. 2 Liberty out of its debut appearance, prevailing in a four-set Class 5A quarterfinal, 25-17, 25-12, 19-25, 25-20, Tuesday afternoon.

“Our girls did a really good job of keeping their composure,” Pleasant Valley Coach Amber Hall said. “They played with a lot of energy. Those first two sets, I felt we were really dialed in.”

Pleasant Valley (30-5) advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2012; the Spartans will face No. 3 West Des Moines Valley (41-4) in a semifinal at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Credit an aggressive serving scheme that netted 12 aces.

“We work on being super aggressive, but consistent,” said Pleasant Valley’s Ilah Perez-Johnson, who delivered five of them. “You can be super aggressive, and still get the serve over and in.”

And credit a front-row wall that collected 18 blocks, six by Erica Brohm.

“We really like to hit down the line,” Liberty’s Rylee Fay said. “Obviously they watched some film, because they knew that was our favorite shot, and they shut us down.”

The Spartans rolled through the first two sets, jumping to a 6-1 lead in the opener and blasting to a 12-2 advantage in Game 2.

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Liberty (34-3) stabilized in the third set, scoring six of the first seven points. Pleasant Valley rallied for a 17-16 edge, but the Lightning closed with a 9-2 run to extend the match.

The Lightning held a 16-15 lead in Game 4, but Emily Wood posted three kills and an ace in a deciding 7-1 run.

“We knew we were capable of doing this, but it was just a matter of coming out and doing it,” said Pleasant Valley’s Kaitlyn Morgan.

Liberty made its first state appearance in its third year of existence.

“Coming to state my senior year, it’s really cool,” said Lee Ann Potter, a three-year starter. “It was an amazing feeling and I’ll remember it forever.”

“We made a great leap, no doubt about it,” Dolson said. “The kids will learn from it. At one point, we had three freshmen in the front row, and I’m awfully proud of how they competed.

“I think we’re here to stay.”

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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