Coronado feeds off Mara Abernethy for five-set victory over Liberty

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Photo - Lancers junior Erin Ende spikes the ball during the second game of the Coronado vs. Liberty volleyball match at Liberty High School on Tuesday, August 30, 2016. Coronado won 3 games to 2. Photo by Ryan Jones, The Gazette.
Lancers junior Erin Ende spikes the ball during the second game of the Coronado vs. Liberty volleyball match at Liberty High School on Tuesday, August 30, 2016. Coronado won 3 games to 2. Photo by Ryan Jones, The Gazette.

Coronado couldn't score a point without a loud howl coming from its 6-foot-2 middle hitter, Mara Abernethy.

The Cougars fed off that - and the one thing that may have been more thunderous, her kills.

Abernethy had 13 kills on 19 attempts, Jaelyn Hershberger added 13 kills and seven digs and the Cougars beat Liberty 25-19, 19-25, 26-24, 20-25, 15-11 in a five-set, nonconference thriller Tuesday.

"Mara has always been an emotional leader even when she was a younger player," first-year coach Stormie Wells said. "We count on her to be that emotional lift for us."

Coronado (2-0), which lost three key seniors and its coach from a team that made an unlikely run in the state tournament last season, showed plenty of youth with one senior on the roster.

The Cougars also showed they could finish.

Coronado ended the fifth set on a 5-2 run - and waited on a conference by the officials to finally celebrate.

Heck, a couple of more minutes didn't mean much in a two-hour match.

"I think we have a lot of improving and growing to do but we are growing together," Abernethy said. "It was a great opportunity to play a tough team early and see what we could do."

Jordan Valentine had 13 kills for Liberty (1-1), while teammates Caitlyn Kinder and Erin Ende each had 12 kills.

The Lancers took a hit in the first set when sophomore captain Kita Elsner left with a sprained right ankle.

Liberty still battled with Coronado to force a fifth set.

"I think this team needs a lot of confidence and that's what this game did," said Lancers libero Gabby Monteleone, who led the team with 19 digs. "We know next time if we go a fifth set we can beat them."

Coronado won a third set that included 16 ties and seven lead changes. Liberty sent the game to a fifth set after a 9-1 run to end the fourth.

"That win meant a lot to us because we have a fun little rivalry with them," Hershberger said. "That win raised our confidence."