#6 Liberty rallies past #3 Gilbert

November 8, 2022 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Gilbert's Elli Walker (3) challenges Liberty's Ellie Trimble (14) attack in Tuesday's 6A quarterfinal match. (Azpreps365 photo)

Liberty began Tuesday's 6A quarterfinal match with Gilbert feeding outside hitter Ellie Trimble -- its attack leader -- often. No surprise there. Trimble registered five kills for a 5-3 lead. The Lions went on to win a tight first set with Trimble notching 10 kills.

Trimble added an encore in the decisive fifth set with six kills as sixth-seeded Liberty outlasted third-seeded Gilbert. Scores were 27-25, 20-25, 20-25, 25-7, 15-11.

Liberty (26-6), which reached the quarterfinals last year where it was eliminated by eventual champion Hamilton, gets another shot at Hamilton in Thursday's 5 p.m. semifinal at Hamilton. #2 Hamilton defeated #7 Sunnyslope in straight sets to advance and continue its pursuit of a third consecutive state championship. Gilbert, which was eliminated in the 5A semifinals last season by eventual champ Millennium, finished 2022 with a 26-8 record.

Trimble, a junior, finished thef five-set battle with 29 kills. In step with Trimble was sophomore Tristen Raymond, Liberty's second-leading attacker. Raymond totaled 10 kills. Gilbert spread its attack among four players - Sydney Mahon (12 kills), Raegan Richardson (11 kills), Becca King (10 kills) and Andi Nothdurft (8 kills).

Gilbert seemingly had momentum with its 2-1 set lead and the home crowd behind it. Liberty swiped that momentum quickly in the fourth with no drama. Gilbert never led in the set and called time down 9-2 and once more as the deficit widened at 15-4. There was no hint of a rally, just a look forward to the fifth set. 

The fifth set was tight with six ties through the final tie at 6-6. An ace by Raymond put Liberty ahead for good, 7-6. Liberty led 12-7 when Gilbert showed life and pared the deficit to 12-10 with a Mahon block and kill. Liberty settled down after a timeout to nail down the match. Two Raymond kills and a block accounted for the final points.