Preps

Thursday, Nov 15 2012 11:36 PM

Clovis West rallies past Liberty for D-I volleyball title

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Liberty's Haylee Roberts tries to cut the ball past a Clovis West double block during their Divison 1 championship held at Liberty on Thursday night in Bakersfield.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Liberty's Kiki Robinson attacks the Clovis West block of Lisa Armendariz and Katie Dunbar-Lowe during the Patriot's Divison 1 championship at home on Thursday night in Bakersfield.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    The Liberty bench cheers on their teammates during the fifith set of their Division 1 championship held at Liberty on Thursday night in Bakersfield.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Liberty's Kiki robinson makes a dig on a Clovis West spike during the Patriot's Divison 1 championship game at home on Thursday night in Bakersfield.

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    By Michael Fagans / The Californian

    Liberty's Nikki Leonard attacks the block of Clovis West's McKenzie Jacobsen and Emily Minugh during their Division 1 volleyball championship game at Liberty on Thursday night in Bakersfield.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

Clovis West did it again.

Down two sets to none in a Central Section volleyball championship match, the Golden Eagles stormed back on a Kern County team to win. This time it was on the road at Liberty on Thursday, 14-25, 25-27, 25-23, 25-17, 15-9.

With the comeback, Clovis West (27-12) denied Liberty (26-7) the first Division I section championship in school history.

"We've had such a great season, and that just makes tonight all the more disappointing," Liberty coach Lean Slayton said.

The Patriots stormed to a 16-6 lead to open the match and coasted to Game 1 victory, though that proved to be fools' gold. The teams played point-for-point in Game 2 until a three-point Liberty run, punctuated by two Haylee Roberts kills, gave the top-seeded Patriots a two-set lead.

In the break between games, Clovis West coach Rhonda DeRuiter took her team outside the Liberty gym for a wake-up call in the light rain -- the same thing she did last year, when the Golden Eagles trailed Centennial 2-0 before coming back to win at home.

"It was almost identical to last year," DeRuiter said. "I said we had to play more aggressive. We had no room to play it safe, so we had to attack everything."

And that's what happened. Led by McKenzie Jacobsen, a 6-foot-6 middle blocker and second-team AVCA All-American, Clovis West seized control of Game 3, leading by as many as five points before Liberty made its one serious run at ending the match. A 4-1 Patriots run, punctuated by blocks from Kiki Robinson and Kourtney Grantz, tied the game 22-22 and brought Liberty within three points of victory.

The Patriots wouldn't get any closer. Two Jacobsen kills later, Clovis West had a 25-23 victory and was on a comeback.

"We are a team of momentum," DeRuiter said. "Sometimes, when we get a belief of success, we can be really hard to stop."

After a routine Game 4 win, Clovis West set itself up for another big comeback in Game 5. Liberty took an 8-5 lead -- but in doing so, the Patriots lost Roberts, who left the gym sick. Slayton said Roberts has a gastrointestinal illness that flares up in stressful or adrenaline-filled situations.

With Roberts out, Jacobsen and Dunbar-Lowe took over. Clovis West ended the match on a 10-1 run that included two blocks and two kills from Jacobsen and a kill and two blocks from Dunbar-Lowe.

"We knew Haylee would get her kills because she's a fantastic player, but we liked the matchups we had and we thought we could benefit," DeRuiter said.

Jacobsen finished with 17 kills and five blocks and Katie Dunbar-Lowe had 12 and four for the Golden Eagles, while Roberts had 18 kills and 13 blocks before being forced to leave for the Patriots.

The match was also a tremendous defensive exhibition, with many spikes picked up seemingly off the floor to extend rallies.Maddie Hubbell had 38 digs to lead Liberty, and Maddie DeMarco, Taylor Harris, Halle Harker and Robinson all had more than 15.

No. 2 Clovis West d. No. 1 Liberty 14-25, 25-27, 25-23, 25-17, 15-9

CWHS (27-12) : Kills: Jacobsen 17, Dunbar-Lowe 12. Assists: Minugh 22. Digs: Ferdinandsen 26, Oren 15, Little 11. Blocks: Jacobsen 5, Dunbar-Lowe 4.

LHS (26-7): Kills: Roberts 18, Harris 11, Robinson 10, Herring 5, Leonard 5. Assists: Robinson 25, Harris 16. Digs: Hubbell 38, DeMarco 24, Harris 21, Harker 18, Robinson 16. Blocks: Roberts 13, Herring 9. Aces: Hubbell 4.

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