Liberty's long streak halted

Thomas Johnson stops Lions' run at 49



For the Liberty volleyball team, it was a routine that had become part of the fabric of game day. After each victory, players would pick up their cell phones and call members of last year's squad, letting them know their streak was still intact.

Last night, those calls never came.

Visiting Thomas Johnson needed just 64 minutes to efficiently and resoundingly put an end to the longest winning streak in metro-area history. The Patriots took advantage of uncharacteristic mistakes by the No. 2 Lions to easily capture the first two games, then rallied from a late deficit in the third to cap off a stunning 25-17, 25-15, 26-24 victory.

The match ended a string of 49 straight wins for Liberty, which had not lost since falling to Mount Hebron in the state semifinals on Nov. 13, 2002. It was also the team's first setback in the regular season since losing to South Carroll in October of that year.

To Lions coach Dave Trumbo, however, the magnanimous nature of the loss was far greater than its actual meaning.

"It didn't hurt us. It just hurt our pride," Trumbo said. "Our goal was to win our region and be the No. 1 seed so we get home [court]. By losing the match, we don't lose the county, we don't lose the conference and we don't lose the state. We don't lose anything but our pride and our streak."

Led by hitters Bethany Springer (16 kills, five blocks), Lauren Cline (11 kills) and Sara Hanlon (nine kills, six blocks), Thomas Johnson (12-1) controlled the match from the outset, rolling to surprisingly easy victories in each of the first two games, as the Lions - playing their first match in 10 days - looked out of sync.

"We just weren't really passing," said Liberty middle hitter Kristen Steinnagel, who led the Lions with eight kills. "We couldn't get the ball to our target, and that kind of threw off our game a little."

Even when the Lions (11-1) managed to get away good shots, the Patriots' defense was usually up to the challenge.

"We put them under pressure like they probably had not seen in a match all year," Patriots coach Jim Dorsch said. "We came in here completely focused. This was our goal."

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