So, while the Liberty girls volleyball team fields a lot of good players, the one who stands out literally head and shoulders above her teammates as well as the opposition is 6-foot-4-inch senior Corinne Costa. She led her team to a 3-0 victory over Heritage last week in the raucous Lions’ gym, notching 14 kills, four aces, four blocks, three digs and five service points.
The match was actually closer than the 3-0 score suggests. Heritage got on the board first in all three games, and was up 5-0 in the first game before Liberty caught up and took the lead on strong serving by Alexis Dumitrescu and Emma Foehr. That 25-18 win turned out to be Liberty’s easiest victory of the night.
It also looked like the Lions might run away with the second game – they were up 20-12 at one point. But the Patriots fought back, winning seven straight points with ace after ace from one of their servers before falling 25-22.
The third game became a seesaw battle. After Heritage went up 4-0, the teams traded points and serves, tying at 8-8, 17-17, 23-23 and 24-24. The fans for both sides who had been screaming, cheering, chanting and clapping throughout the match cranked up the decibels to the level of a Boeing 747 getting ready for take-off.
Perhaps the longest point of the match came at 23-23, which was won by the Patriots, putting them in the driver’s seat to serve out the game. But a perfect set by Liberty’s Kim O’Neill allowed Kimi Graunstadt to spike the ball off the Heritage blockers and tie it at 24. After a mishit by a Heritage player, Liberty was now in the driver’s seat. Foehr nudged the ball over the net to a spot that the diving Patriots could not reach, giving the Lions the win – and the Liberty fans’ 747 took flight.
Despite the post-game cacophony, Liberty Coach Linda Ghilarducci took the win in stride, saying, “We just stayed with it and played very consistent. I was very proud of them in everything that they did. It’s always a good match between us.”
Both teams came into the game with 3-1 league records, so Liberty was bumped up to 4-1 (8-7 overall), while Heritage dropped to 3-2 (13-7 overall).
“I think we are doing really well and they play really well together and they work hard,” said Ghilarducci, affectionately known as Gooch. “It’s just a good group. I appreciate the community and the fans (coming out and cheering), because that’s what makes it all worthwhile. The girls really appreciate that.”
Heritage Coach Janet Hannigan also noted the energy produced when these cross-town rivals clash. “It’s always exciting playing against Liberty,” she said. “There’s always a lot of emotion involved because these kids have been friends and neighbors all their lives. So it’s fun to come back and get together. It was a good match. I wish it would have gone four or five (games).”
Hannigan described her team in terms similar to those used by Ghilarducci: “They are a fabulous group of girls. They work really hard. They play hard. And they are just great people to be around.”
While her players have done well this season, particularly in non-league action, they might not have shown their full potential. “We’ve had a lot of setbacks with the flu; some kids aren’t still right back up to par,” said Hannigan. “We’ve already had a girl (Macie Van Eckhardt) tear her ACL and have surgery today. So I’m sure that was weighing heavy on the girls’ minds, because that’s really hard when one of your teammates goes down.
“But it’s no excuses. I wish we would have put out a little better product tonight. But I’m proud of how they played and in that last game for sure. I’m excited for the next time to see Liberty. It’s always a good time.”
The next good time for these two teams will be Oct. 20 in the Heritage gym.