When Liberty volleyball coach Helen Derwin handed out schedules at the beginning of the season, the words "STATES -- YES" appeared at thebottom of each one.
Derwin knew she had a strong team of players returning and if they worked hard, they could find themselves right where they were Saturday -- competing in the state finals.
A point here and a point there, and the Liberty team easily couldhave been state champions. It wasn't to be, however, as Mount Hebronof Howard County won a hard-fought four-game match.
"After the match, I got the team together and told them it's OK, someone has to win and someone has to lose -- but really there were no losers Saturday," Derwin said.
"They looked like they belonged and can keep theirheads up high."
The difference in the match came in Game 3 with the teams tied at one game apiece.
With the score tied at 14, the Lions let a routine ball drop between three players. Mount Hebron won the next point to win the game and take control of the match.
Regardless of the outcome, Derwin was pleased with her team's effort.
"I thought our kids responded very well," Derwin said.
"They came out a little nervous but played beautifully. If the third game had gone our way at 14-14, it may have been a different story."
The lossdoesn't tarnish the Lions' superb season.
It included county, Central Maryland Conference and region titles, along with an 11-match win streak and a pair of victories over county rival North Carroll, which had not lost a county match since 1988.
"Losing to Thomas Johnson (during the regular season in early October) woke us up a bit, andwe didn't lose a match until the (state) finals," said Derwin, whoseLions finished the season with a 16-3 mark.
Finally beating NorthCarroll proved particularly sweet for Derwin and the Lions. They didit twice this season.
"I thought we had a real nice chance to knock off North Carroll, and after Frederick beat them, I thought this was our year to beat them," she said.
The Lions will lose four seniors to graduation next year.
Standout hitter Kelly Foreman, Meredith McCullin, Patti Bouver and Laura Hennessey all contributed greatlyto the team's success this season, but Derwin is confident the school has built a strong foundation for volleyball in the years to come.
"I think we'll be in good shape for a while," Derwin said.
"A championship team draws more kids to the program, and we have a hungrygroup of players from last year's undefeated junior varsity team that didn't get much of a chance to play this year."