Improved, psyched Liberty sweeps away battling 'T.J.' First two games a struggle as Lions take 9th victory

October 16, 1997|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

Two weeks ago, after North Carroll had whipped visiting Liberty in three games, the losers challenged themselves. It was their second straight defeat after starting with five wins, and the possibility of a successful season hung in the balance.

Emily Stuard, one of three Liberty seniors, talked about that yesterday after the Lions (9-2) showed just how far they have come with a 16-14, 15-13, 15-8 Central Maryland Conference victory over visiting Thomas Johnson (7-3).

"At North Carroll, our team chemistry was bad, and all had attitudes," Stroud said. "After the two losses, we woke up, and we haven't lost [in the regular season] since." Second-year coach Dave Trumbo called it "soul-searching."

The improvement was evident in the sweep of the Patriots, who took Liberty to five games in Frederick a month ago.

"We were nervous for that one because we hadn't beaten them in six years," Stroud, a middle hitter, said. "This time, we were really psyched to play well. No more surprises."

Although Liberty played well, the Lions had trouble finishing off the visitors in the first two games, as they rallied to get back in it. Down 5-13, T.J. ran off eight straight points, tied it again at 14, then fell to a Stroud placement to an open spot and a netted return.

In the second game, both sides nearly went through a full rotation of servers before the Lions took charge. They led 12-5 and 14-8 before Thomas Johnson closed to 14-13. A set that no one handled cost it the winning point.

Liberty made sure of the third game, thwarting one rally that reduced a lead from 13-4 to 13-8, before ending it.

"This is such a big mental game. When it starts to get away from you, it's tough to get it back," Stroud said. "In our early matches, we didn't have enough to come back on teams [that challenged the Lions].

"Here, they came back on us twice, and we were able to put them away."

Stroud finished with 18 kills, and junior Abby Barnett nine. Junior Beth Modracek was 24-for-24 on serves, including seven aces; senior Shen Poehlman had 20 successful passes; and junior Jen Bruce had a strong level of consistency in playing the entire match.

Liberty has three regular-season matches remaining: at Linganore and Westminster next week, and home against North Carroll, Oct. 28.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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