Comeback falls short
Trailing two sets to none against the two-time defending District 11 champions, some would have expected Liberty to give up. Most other teams would have folded.
But Hurricane head coach Neiad Ammary knew the type of resilient bunch he had. And then the Hurricanes proved that notion.
Liberty turned around a 10-7 deficit in the third set into a 25-22 victory, and the Hurricanes were on the verge of forcing a decisive fifth set when they pulled within 23-21 in the fourth game. But the Trojans, who hadn’t lost a set against an EPC foe all season, escaped for a 3-1 victory (25-20, 25-15, 22-25, 25-23) last Thursday night at Allen High School.
“You really can’t ask for much more,” Ammary said. “We talk about response to adversity. It’s not talk; this is what we are. It doesn’t matter whom we’re up against. It doesn’t matter how many times they’ve beaten us. It doesn’t matter what the score is. There is no quit in this group of kids.”
After taking the first two sets, Parkland found itself in treacherous waters midway through the third set. Liberty went on an 8-0 run, highlighted by Brett Bosak’s and Logan Priestas’ dominant play at the net, to take a commanding 15-0 lead.
The Trojans regained their composure to get within a point on three separate occasions, but Liberty never let the No. 1 team in Class 3A regain the lead.
Much like their semifinal win against Emmaus — a team that already defeated the ’Canes twice this season — it was that unwillingness to give up that kept Liberty alive.
“So many things in life come down to a fight or flight instinct,” Ammary said. “Our guys have learned throughout their time in this program to fight … Tuesday night [a 3-0 sweep against Emmaus] was nice because it’s the same thing. Any other team out there would have rolled over against a team that had beaten them twice and just swept them last week.”
Ammary acknowledged that his team started to solve some of the problems Parkland was causing on the court. And it seemed as if that momentum from the third set carried into the fourth as the Hurricanes clawed to within a point in large part to a late 11-3 spurt.
The Trojans however, received a game-defining kill from Andrew Hillman in the following point to make it a 24-22 advantage. Shortly after that, Kyle Stout put the match away with a kill over the left side of the net.
“I wouldn’t say we had them where we wanted because they were still winning,” Ammary said. “But I feel like they got predictable. We knew what they wanted to do. And our guys did a nice job of adjusting. Any other team would have tucked their tails and just rolled over and folded.”
And while their performance certainly proved their worth among the area’s top teams, the Hurricanes weren’t playing for second place. They were playing to spoil Parkland’s chance at a potential district three-peat, a feat that unfortunately came up just short.
“We definitely would have liked a better result,” Ammary said. “I’m frustrated that we had made a bunch of early errors in some of those sets, and they were rather careless. But we kind of did figure Parkland out a little bit as the match went on. And we knew that the longer it would go on, the better chance we would have on winning.”
The Hurricanes still advance to the state tournament as the No. 2 seed coming out of District 11. They’ll face the No. 1 seed from District 12, George Washington, on Wednesday at High School of the Future in Philadelphia at 7 p.m.