The match didn’t disappoint, as the Lions won 3-2.
The Wolverines had not lost a Bay Valley Athletic League match since 2007 and after three games, it appeared as though that streak would continue. After dropping the opening game 25-22, Deer Valley came back to win the second and third games by the scores of 25-17 and 25-15.
Game four appeared headed down a similar path as Deer Valley held a 17-12 lead but a strong run of serves by Liberty sophomore setter and middle blocker Taylor Scriven cut the lead and after the teams went back and forth for a few points, the Lions’ defensive specialist, junior Taylor Morgan got the ball to serve, trailing 23-21. Her serves anchored the Lions comeback, as they didn’t drop another point in the fourth game, winning 25-23.
The fifth and deciding game as a back and forth affair with the teams trading points to an 8-8 tie. Liberty took a 9-8 lead and never looked back as they won the match, 15-11.
“Liberty is kind of known to start slow and we’re always underdogs,” Liberty head coach Linda Ghilarducci said. “We train for the fifth game, we have three or four hour practices, so we don’t get tired. Nothing to take away from them, it was an even match. That builds confidence. It’s a nice match and it’s a win both ways.”
Deer Valley had several strong performances in defeat. Seniors Courtney Brown and Keesh Tolentino both had strong serves that anchored the games that the Wolverines won. Junior outside hitter Marisa Malone had her strongest game, totaling 13 points.
The match gave both schools 2-1 records in league play. Deer Valley is 7-14 overall, Liberty holds a 4-14 record. Both are now finding their stride after below .500 preseasons and are looking to become the forces in the Bay Area that they have become so used to being.
The two prior “Dig for the Cure” games between the two schools brought in close to $10,000 and this year’s game promised to at least equal that pace. Both teams wore pink shirts in the pre-game warm-ups. Once the game started, Liberty wore pink uniforms and Deer Valley wore pink shorts.
“It’s a way for the kids and us to give back,” Wolverines head coach Lou Panzella said before the match. “We are friendly rivals. You want to do something in the match that’s important so that people will come to see, I enjoy doing it with Liberty because I know Linda takes it seriously and I know that it’s going to be a pretty good match.”
The home gym in the Dig for the Cure game alternates between seasons. Deer Valley hosts the game in even numbered years and Liberty hosts it in the odd numbered years.
The friendliness and the common goal does not take does not take fact that the two teams are rivals. Each school wants to at least match the fundraising ability of the other from year to year, which is why the event has grown in each season.
“It’s nice to see it grow from where it started for such a good cause,” said Liberty’s senior opposite hitter Chantal Lasher, who has also been a part of all of the Dig for the Cure matches. “Every single one of us on the team loves volleyball, we live it, and we breathe it. With something as serious as breast cancer, being able to help out with something we love doing is amazing.”
Panzella said that of all of the girls playing in the match, maybe an average of one per season will go on and play college volleyball and that in the years that will follow, the cause, and the money raised for it, will supersede whatever the final score was.
Panzella said Deer Valley’s side raised $1,795 for breast cancer research. Ghilarducci said she won’t know Liberty’s tally until Tuesday.
“Every year, I have asked my group how many of them know someone with cancer and they all raise their hands, so it really hits home for them,” said Ghilarducci. “The girls really want to do it, too. So I think that it’s exciting.”