The first thing Liberty Christian volleyball coach Kim Grizzle did when she woke up on November 22 was grab her cellphone and send a quick group text to every player on her team. The message: “Good morning, state champions!”
Not since 2006 had anyone in the Liberty program heard those words, and Grizzle wanted to be the first to utter them.
“I’m not sure it sunk in for us yet. I just remember waking up that morning thinking how glad I was to be on this side of it,” Grizzle said with a laugh. “These girls decided this was their year. I don’t think they would have accepted anything less.”
The Lady Warriors (31-1) weren’t considered the favorite coming in, as St. Agnes (17-5) had won 18 state titles. But they weren’t to be denied, capping a dominant season with a 25-22, 22-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-13 win to claim the TAPPS 6A state title. Liberty trailed two games to one before decisively winning the fourth set. The fifth and final set was tied at 13 when Madison Morrow dropped in a quick kill, followed by a long hitting error by St. Agnes.
Morrow finished with 20 kills, 13 digs, four blocks, and two aces. Jadyn Fife recorded 12 blocks, 10 kills, eight digs, and three aces, while sophomore setter Reagan Fifer tallied 40 assists, eight digs, and seven blocks.
Ella Grace Barr, who missed most of the regular season with an injury, returned in force to chip in 10 kills.
It was Liberty’s third appearance at the state tournament and its first since 2007. They won it all in 2006.
“[St. Agnes] is really good, and really big,” Grizzle said. “We aren’t that big, and we don’t have players who play high-level club ball like they do. So going in, I told Reagan, ‘we have got to keep our hitters off the net. If we swing into that big block, we will lose.’ So we intentionally set our hitters back five feet and hit everything deep. We tried to hit the deep corners, and we saw a few quirks in film. And all of it just seemed to work.”
The game plan was a microcosm for how everything went for Liberty this season. The Lady Warriors’ only loss was to Gunter, which was a UIL Class 3A state semifinalist. They also only had one match go a full five sets during the regular season, further adding to their dominance. Once in the playoffs, they knocked off Parish Episcopal, Plano Prestonwood Christian, and Trinity Christian Addison to claim a spot in the state final.
Including the state title game, three of Liberty Christian’s four playoff matches went five sets.
“Their last practice was as good as their first,” Grizzle said. “I didn’t have to beg them a single time to come to practice, and that’s a testament to these girls. Even in the offseason last year, I like to give them a break, at least through Christmas. They didn’t want it. They were begging me to play. They love it that much and wanted to play that badly.”
Grizzle added, “I love these girls, and Liberty is such a great place to be. These girls love each other, and they are the most selfless group. Honestly, I think that right there is what makes a championship team.”
photos courtesy of Allison Fifer