Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball coach Jen Chapman had a smile stuck to her face for most of Tuesday night’s non-league victory at Big Walnut in Sunbury.
She has reason to smile, too. Her Patriots (12-0) kept their undefeated season going with a 26-24, 25-21, 25-19 win over host BW.
“We’re having fun,” Chapman said. “The kids are playing hard. Mistakes are happening, but if they’re playing hard and playing aggressively – that’s all I ask of them.”
The Eagles came back from a 24-19 deficit to tie it 24-24 in the first set – getting key points by Mac Podraza and Caroline Speelman as well as a combo block by Speelman and Kaley Rammelsberg along the way.
But, the Patriots got a Taylor Karlo tip shot to break the tie and Maile Steckelburg and Sydney Novy each went to the ground to keep the ball alive for a Claranne Fechter set-clinching kill off a Logan Flaugh feed.
Liberty went on to finish the sweep to extend its winning streak to open the season.
“These girls love to have fun,” Chapman said. “They’re close on and off the court. We’re tough on them at practices; we’re demanding at practices – and games are meant to be fun. They’ve worked hard to get where they are. I’m pleased with what they’re doing.”
The Patriots used solid defense to frustrate BW, which had an eight-game winning streak snapped.
Steckelberg had 28 digs to lead Liberty, which finished with 71 as a team.
“We’re a decent-sized team, but our identity has got to be our serving, our ball-control and our defense,” Chapman said. “If you can keep the ball alive – eventually the other side is going to get angry and they’re going to make errors.”
Karlo had 12 kills and Fechter finished with 11. Karlo had seven and Fechter had six in the first set alone.
Flaugh finished with 34 assists and a pair of aces to lead the Patriots. Steckelberg also finished with a pair of aces.
All helping Chapman keep her smile.
“I’ve learned over the years – if you are an up-and-down roller coaster coach – your kids tend to follow that,” she said. “(If) you as a coach are having fun – your kids tend to follow that.”
Podraza had 10 kills to lead the Eagles (9-4), Kelsie Imertreijs finished with nine and Caroline Speelman added seven.
“(Podraza is) a strong player and has a really good knowledge of the game,” BW coach Ron Lehman said. “I think she recognizes openings in the defense that she can attack. She does a good job of that.”
BW, a Division II state finalist last season, has run the gauntlet in its non-league schedule. Liberty is the sixth Division I opponent on its non-league schedule with two more left to play. The Eagles are 4-3 in those games.
The Eagles have also faced other D-II powers such as Marengo Highland and Granville, which they split. Lehman believes this will help them come tournament time.
“That’s what we want,” Lehman said. “We want to challenge ourselves. We’re playing really good D-I schools and that’s really good for us because it makes us tougher.”
Both teams return to league action Thursday. BW hosts Franklin Heights in OCC-Capital play at 7 p.m. and Liberty visits Westerville Central in OCC-Buckeye action at 6:30 p.m.
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