ELDERSBURG — The Liberty volleyball team opened the regional playoffs last night as it left off in the regular season -- winning.
But it wasn't easy.
The top-seeded Lions advanced to the Class 2A Region I finals by winning a hard-fought match against a gutsy fourth-seeded North Hagerstown team, 15-13, 15-8, 10-15, 15-13.
Liberty will play host to Allegany tomorrow night at 7.
The victory extended the Lions' winning streak to nine straight matches and improved their season record to 14-2.
"They (North Hagerstown) played very well, coming in as a fourth seed. They just went out and played hard with nothing to lose and did a great job," Liberty coach Helen Derwin said. "I really thought they had the momentum.
"I hope our kids saw that they can't goout and play sloppy and expect to win."
The North Hagerstown Hubsjumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the first game before Liberty answered with six straight points.
Liberty appeared to be in control,leading 8-3, but the Washington County team fought back to take an 11-8 lead, keyed by the strong serving of Kelly Moler.
The Lions came back with the next six points, capped by a Kelly Foreman spike.
After North Hagerstown cut the lead to 14-13, Meredith McCullin won the game for the Lions with a serve the Hubs couldn't handle.
The Lions had a little easier time in the second game.
They jumped outto a 10-3 lead, taking advantage of some careless play by North Hagerstown.
After the Hubs cut the lead to 11-8, the Lions closed out the second game on spikes from Laura Hennessy and Calin Lawler.
Itappeared Liberty was ready to take control of the third game, leading 9-6. The Lions had difficulty serving and setting in the third game, while the Hubs took full advantage of it.
But the Hubs scored the next nine out of 10 points to take the match into a fourth game.
Hennessy took over in the late stages of the fourth game, to give the Lions the victory.
With the Hubs leading, 13-11, she made a great save to give the Lions a side-out and came back with four strong serves to give Liberty the win.
"She has come such a long way," Derwin said. "Her back-row passes were great, and her hits up front were well-placed."
Derwin will need a stronger effort from the Lions ifthey plan to continue their winning ways.
"It's been a great season," she said. "We're playing well and winning. The girls are really sticking with it and playing like a team.
"As long as the girls stay focused, we should be fine."