Being down two players isn’t the ideal situation for a coach in any sport, but the Liberty boys volleyball team still made the most of the situation.
Missing hitter Nick Archer and libero Adam Pickard to injury, the Patriots were able to defeat the visiting Westerville South Wildcats in three games, 25-17, 25-18, 29-27 Tuesday night at Liberty High School.
Coach David Hale called on junior varsity players Michael Linse and Garrett Ackard to fill the two missing spots, and along with hitter Josh Pollner, Liberty (11-2) was able to pull out the three-game win thanks in large part to superior passing and hitting.
“We had a lot of guys step up,” Hale said. “With Nick and Adam out with injuries, we played with a couple of rookies tonight. It’s nice to have a 6-8 guy to sub in for your other 6-8 guy, and I thought Michael Linse did a tremendous job as our libero tonight. It’s nice to have guys to fill those spots and allow us to carry on.”
But Westerville South (3-7) never surrendered in any of the three games, especially the third, when the Wildcats were a point away from sending the match to a fourth game twice.
“Westerville South battled through the whole match,” Hale said. “They have some guys who can hit the ball, and they had some good serves, too. It wasn’t an easy match at all.”
Liberty built up big leads in the opening game, getting solid service runs and kills from Tyler Menges, Alec Charbonneau, Pollner, Phil Cheesman and Tyler Shirey to take a 13-5 lead.
Westerville South closed within four points, 18-14, shortly after the beginning of the second rotation, but aces from Charbonneau and Pollner, plus a kill from Chase Wagner helped the Patriots to the game one victory.
Liberty again built a lead early in the second game, taking an 11-5 advantage on kills from Cheesman, Charbonneau and Shirey, also helped by a five-point service run from Cheesman that included one ace.
The Wildcats closed within two points after that at 12-10, then trimmed the Patriot lead to three twice after that, but aces from Pollner and Wagner and kills from Shirey and Cheesman helped Liberty to the game two win.
Game three was a different matter. Westerville South pulled ahead early and held leads of two and three points five times through the first rotation.
“I told our guys they were going to come after us in game three,” Hale said. “All season long, the third game is when our opponents usually come out swinging, and sometimes you have a little bit of a let down, which I thought we had, but we still had a lot of guys step up tonight.”
Down 14-11 in the second rotation, the Patriots rallied back to take a 15-14 lead before the Wildcats took back serve and scored eight of the next 11 points to hold a 22-18 advantage.
But after a set error gave a point and the service back to Liberty, the Patriots rallied with Shirey at the line. Pollner recorded a block and kill, Shirey aced his next serve, and following a time out, Pollner blocked down another Wildcat attempt to tie the game at 22-all. A Wildcat error then put Liberty ahead.
Westerville North rallied within game point after three kills, but a service error gave Liberty a chance to seal the game at 26-25, but a service error tied the score again.
Another Wildcat kill put Liberty on the brink of a fourth game, but Cheesman took a set from Charbonneau for a kill that tied the game at 27, and two Wildcat errors with Pollner serving ended the match.
Shirey topped all hitters with 10 kills, adding three blocks and a pair of assists while going a perfect 13 of 13 on service with an ace. Menges and Cheesman had eight kills and a block apiece, Cheesman going 13 of 14 on service with two aces.
Pollner added four kills, six blocks and an assist while going 18 of 21 from the service line with three aces, and Charbonneau was solid on sets with 18 assists on the evening while adding three kills and going 12 of 14 on serve with two aces.