By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Liberty volleyball’s rich tradition continued to flourish in 2021.
The Eagles finished the season with a 25-11-1 campaign and captured the program’s tenth district title since 2009.
Head coach Shari Tune, entering her 11th season at the helm, has led the team to seven of those titles and a trio of Final Four appearances.
In addition, Tune was elected to the Missouri High School Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
It’s no wonder, then, postseason expectations are always high at the school.
“2021 went very well for us,” Tune said. “We peaked late season, so it allowed us to knock off the No. 2 and No. 1 seeds to win the title. Those were two games I will never forget. We ended the season in the quarterfinals. It was not the ‘last game’ we should have had to end the season, but it was an overall accomplishing and progressive season.”
A quintet of talented graduates depart the program in Lexi Shumpert, Shelby Acklin, Clayah Allen, Kenna Woosley and Caitlyn McNew.
Shumpert, a setter/outside hitter, received all-state honors in 2021. She will continue her volleyball career at Missouri State University – West Plains, the same school her mother played for.
“These girls are the sweetest, hardest working, most selfless girls I will ever coach,” Tune said. “I cannot wait to see how they succeed in life.”
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A trio of talented players will step into prominent roles this season and lead the Eagles’ attack in Lyla Cornman, Bre Daniels and Kenzie Daniels.
Cornman, an all-conference senior setter, recorded 131 kills, 13 blocks, 283 digs, 397 assists and 59 aces last season.
Junior middle blocker Bre Daniels finished 2021 with 284 kills, 83 blocks, 232 digs, 23 assists and 30 aces. She was named to all-conference and all-district teams.
Kenzie Daniels, a senior right side hitter, also received all-conference and all-district honors last season during which she posted 148 kills, 19 blocks, 108 digs, 9 assists and 40 aces.
The three returnees will be joined by sophomore right side hitter Korie Lind and junior middle blocker Kinzie Tomey.
In addition to its returning corps, Liberty will benefit from a host of varsity newcomers in sophomore Kaylie Wagner, sophomore Bryleigh Wallace and junior Maci Tharp.
Wagner, in particular, could make an immediate impact on the roster.
“Kaylie Wagner will step into a major defensive role for us,” Tune said. “She communicates and sees the floor really well. I’m anxious so see how hard she continues to work and where it takes her. Bryleigh Wallace should compete well on the OH for us, and Maci Tharp will see some setting action.”
With the mix of talent, experience and depth, Tune’s expectations are once again high as her team prepares to enter the 2022 campaign.
“We have a great group of experience out on the floor; however, roster wise, we still will look young,” Tune said. “Hoping the combination of the ending loss last season and our drive will top the younger factor. We always want to finish on top of our game, but I am eager to make a deeper run.”
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A deeper run depends on and starts with a quality playmaker. While Cornman will serve as the team’s primary setter, Tune does have options to create additional versatility if the need arises.
“I have three options for setting, and I am not even sure if we will do a 5-1 or 6-2,” Tune said. “It’s too early to tell for that. I have great options either way, I just need to see what flatters our team the best and helps us run the most efficiently.”
Following an Aug. 23 home jamboree, Liberty opens its season Aug. 29 at Licking.