Liberty senior middle hitter Stephanie Wilder ruined Jami Pryor's strategy.
The North Hagerstown coach's plan to score points while Liberty junior middle hitter Lauren Smith sat on the bench was spoiled by Wilder, who slammed 20 kills and made five blocks to help the Lions knock off the Hubs, 15-8, 10-15, 13-15, 15-13, 15-8, in a Class 3A West regional volleyball quarterfinal in Eldersburg last night.
Liberty (13-3) was down two games to one in the match, but rallied to upset North Hagerstown (12-4), which had appeared in the state finals the past two years.
After the match, Pryor acknowledged that she thought her team could capitalize on Lions coach Dave Trumbo's decision to take Smith off the floor whenever it was her turn to move to the back row.
"We tried to take her out of their offense," Pryor said. "We did a little better job with her than with number 12 [Wilder]. She really stepped it up at the end."
Wilder, who had 12 of her 20 kills in the final two games, said she had to battle her own feelings during the match.
"There was a point in the [fourth] game where I was down on myself," Wilder said. "But I knew that I couldn't do to that to myself or my team."
The first game was a hitting clinic for Smith, who consistently out-jumped several North Hagerstown blockers to record six of her game-high 27 kills to propel Liberty to a 15-8 opening-game win.
But when Smith sat out with the Lions clinging to a 6-1 lead in the second game, the Hubs reeled off eight unanswered points. Smith returned, but the damage was already done and North Hagerstown won the second game, 15-10.
The two teams traded six-point runs in the third game, but Liberty could not close out the game when it held a 13-11 advantage. Hubs senior outside hitter Lindsay Houck served an ace, spiked a kill and recorded a block to help her team win the next four points and the game.
The fourth game threatened to be a repeat of the third, as the Lions built a 13-8 lead and then watched North Hagerstown pull to within two. But Wilder sandwiched two kills around two Liberty errors to help the Lions close out the game, 15-13.
The final game belonged to Liberty as it raced to a 13-6 advantage and won two of the next four points to seal the five-game victory.
Trumbo said last night's win mirrored the Lions' five-game victory against Richard Montgomery on Friday.
"Every time we've gone to a fifth game, we've won," he said. "We have a lot of confidence when we go to a fifth game."
Liberty will meet South Carroll tonight in Sykesville in the regional semifinal. Although the county rivals split their season series, Smith missed their last meeting on Oct. 12 -- which the Cavaliers won, 3-0 -- because of a injured shoulder.
"We're playing at the peak of our game," she said. "I can't wait to play them."