Volleyball Topples Visiting Raiders

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ARGYLE — Chalk up another win over a Denton ISD school for Liberty Christian.

Led by a big offensive night from outside hitter Betsy Smith, the Lady Warriors knocked off Ryan for the second consecutive year in a 25-17, 25-21, 23-25, 25-20 four-set home win Tuesday in their final tuneup before the start of district play.

“We’re in a really good place right now, I think,” Liberty head coach Kimberly Weaver said. “We’ve played some great competition in the preseason, and we’re really excited about where we are. Tonight was just a chance for us to demonstrate how far we’ve come.”

Far enough, apparently, to compete with one of the most tradition-rich programs in the area.

Although Ryan has struggled this season after a majority of the talent that led it into the Class 4A playoffs last season either graduated or transferred, it remains one of the area’s most traditionally strong programs.

Against TAPPS foe Liberty, however, the Lady Raiders have faltered.

The Lady Warriors (12-8) swept Ryan and Denton last season and continued that stretch of wins Tuesday after pulling out to an early advantage in the first set after breaking a 10-all tie with a 7-2 run and going on a 6-1 run to lock up the win. They pulled the same feat in the second set, breaking a 9-all tie with four straight points before taking a 2-0 match lead by finishing on a 5-1 run.

Ryan (6-10) did its best to rally and, overall, looked far better than it did in both its three-set loss to McKinney last week and its 0-3 finish at the Arlington tournament over the weekend.

The Lady Raiders jumped out to an 8-3 lead early in the third set and, despite a rally by Liberty that tied the score at 9, closed out the set for a 25-23 win. That momentum wouldn’t last, though, as Liberty took a 11-6 lead in the fourth set and never looked back.

“We came out more determined today,” Ryan head coach Cindy Williams said. “We had that intensity coming in here tonight, but we just had times where we got caught on our heels and didn’t communicate well. They just found our weaknesses and started keying in on them.”

The Lady Warriors got a solid night from Smith, who kept the Lady Raiders’ defense off balance with a game-high 17 kills. Cassie Okland led Liberty on defense with 21 digs, while Sophie Asprey added 10 digs while notching 32 assists.

The win sends Liberty into its district opener against Fort Worth Nolan on a high note and seemed to solidify its status as a challenger in the district race.

“Our goal as a program is to be dominant not just within TAPPS, but in the whole state of Texas,” Weaver said. “That’s the kind of name we’re trying to make for ourselves, so anytime you get a chance to come out and compete against the likes of Denton Ryan, it’s good for us.”

Ryan, meanwhile, is still trying to find some equilibrium as its Sept. 9 opener in District 4-4A at Wichita Falls approaches.

“As a whole, this team is getting better,” Williams said. “We’re starting to click a little bit. It’s just something that takes time.”

The Raiders were led by Hailey Foster’s 15 kills on offense, while Ryleigh Thompson added 10 in the loss. Lindsay Shanks led the team with 14 digs, while senior Whitney Mills led with 18 assists.

Ryan also played much better at the net than it has in recent weeks. Danella Bunselmeyer led the Lady Raiders with seven blocks, while Thompson added six.

“We do have a lot of talent,” Williams said. “These kids just need to believe they can win and get to that point. I’m hoping by district play we’ll be ready to get out there and let that take over.”

Thank you to the Denton Record-Chronicle for this article.

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