Liberty Volleyball showcases overall strength in 3-0 sweep of Francis Scott Key – Baltimore Sun

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Monday’s Liberty-Francis Scott Key volleyball game began as thunderstorms brought heavy rain to much of the surrounding area.

Inside Liberty’s gymnasium, a different kind of deluge took shape.

The Lions rained down point after point against visiting Francis Scott Key, using a point service game, smooth passing and a fleet of powerful outside hitters to wash away the Eagles in a 3-0, 25-13, 25 sweep -9, 25-8.

Grace Maerten had 25 assists, Paige Coulson had seven aces to go with six kills and five digs, and Sarah Hart had 13 kills and five digs as the Lions moved to 2-0 on aggregate and in the county.

With her senior seven displaying chemistry and skill evident, Liberty coach Sheri Hagen was encouraged by her side’s dominating overall performance.

“That’s pretty much what you can expect every time we step onto the pitch. It’s fun to watch them,” Hagen said. “They’re having a great time, they’re all great teammates who want to see themselves succeed, and they push each other to improve.”

The hosts quickly dialed in on Monday. Liberty turned a 6-4 lead in the opening set into a 13-4 advantage behind seven straight service points from Jenna Liska, who finished with six kills. Good serves were a constant as Liska, Coulson, Hart, Mariah Talford and Hadley Rossbach each did their part in pursuit of Hagen’s stated team goal of a 90-plus serve percentage.

“We worked hard in practice to make sure we got our serves and were consistent,” Coulson said. “It’s such an important part of the game. Once you start serving a lot in a team, it makes them lose their rhythm, and we can really dominate from there.

When the Eagles managed to keep points alive, the Lions sprayed passes from all sides of the field, powering Liberty’s prolific trio of Coulson, Hart and Liska. In the second set, recoveries from Coulson, Hart, Erin Gossard, Natalie Crane and Angela Jones gave Maerten chances to prepare her teammates.

“It’s really exciting to be there for them and give them all these crazy bullets and let them kill,” said Maerten, a junior. “It’s so exciting for me, because they’re some of my best friends, and I can just watch them kill it.”

Hart, who had 216 kills last season, was the recipient of many of those assists. The Eagles made it a point to overtake the Liberty senior at net. With his power factored in, Hart evaded the defense with finesse, dropping crafty tricks into space for points in the second and third sets.

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“When her options are tight and she can’t get that big, powerful swing, that’s something [Hart] definitely works,” said Hagen, who said his seniors’ individual versatility allows them to switch positions and exploit anything the defense can’t cover. “It’s an interesting pairing with our exteriors. We play them all around and they are also excellent passers. So when Paige is in the back row, she makes some really great passes and Sarah gets the hit. It’s a really good combination and it worked very well today.

The Lions ended the game in such an exchange, with Coulson getting a kill after his own serve and then assisting Hart for another kill. Raleigh Upton served the final two points with topspin to end the game.

Francis Scott Key sophomore Dylan Andrews had three kills and two blocks, while Katrina Bowman, Anna Darago and Anna Ridlon each had four digs for the Eagles.

Coach Shannon Saghy said Monday’s game was a learning experience for the Eagles.

“[Liberty has] a lot of power,” Saghy said. “They taught us a lot, so I’m excited to continue working on that basis.”

The Lions, early leaders in the county title race, are looking to build on last year’s regional final.

“We’ve only lost two seniors, so it’s basically the same team, and we have such great chemistry, all girls,” Coulson said. “It’s really fun to continue what we had last year.”

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