photo by Kacey Blunk

Lady Eagles Volleyball Season Preview

The Liberty Lady Eagles enter the 2023 season with a new assistant coach/former player. Lexi Shumpert will be taking the reins of the junior varsity team this season just two years after graduating from Liberty High School.
“I’m excited to be back,” exclaimed Shumpert. “Liberty volleyball was a big part of my life, and it is exciting to be back on a new side of things. I think the biggest hurdle be adjusting to all of the things that come on the coaching side of things that are different from the playing side,” elaborated Shumpert. “I hope that we see lots of progress from the beginning of this year to the end and that I help push that along in any way that I can. I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish.”
The Lady Eagles, who came off a 27-5-3 season record last year and were district champions for the third consecutive year, have a lot to prove as they graduated two very important players, Captain Kenzie Daniels and Lyla Cornman.
“We always lose key players. That is part of the game and our tradition here at Liberty. Every year key players are gone. The great thing about it is the work ethics those seniors leave behind and the expectations they leave with it. New leaders always emerge and take over. Finding our groove filling the setting positions will be our struggle. Lyla has been key for so long, it takes time to replace. Kenzie was the best team captain, and led by example, but I think what is awesome about her is everyone loved her and saw what she achieved by a phenomenal work ethic, so I know it will only rub off on those willing to compete,” commented Head Coach Shari Tune on the upcoming season.
Coach Tune enters her seventeenth-year coaching, and this year will be unique. “For the first time, I will be coaching with one I used to coach,” explained Coach Tune. “That makes my heart full just thinking about it. I am so very thankful God gives me the ability to coach year after year. He has given me the best support system over the previous sixteen seasons.”
In regards to her new Assistant Coach Lexi Shumpert, Coach Tune is excited to have her on the bench. “I know her heart is full for Liberty Volleyball,” began Coach Tune. “She knows and understands how we do things, and what I expect. She also brings new, fresh stuff to us since she just finished a college season under a top-notch program. Her competitive but loving heart will be a great addition to the sidelines.”
The 2023 season will have eight home games and eight away games, one of the first games being against Strafford who knocked Liberty out of the running for state. “Go big or go home,” quipped Coach Tune. “You do not get better by winning easily. We want tough competition; we want to learn from our losses. I want to see early on what I need to focus on for these girls. A stellar record means nothing in the postseason, so I want the most effective schedule to learn how to grow my team. Our September schedule is so brutal, it's going to be an adjustment this year with the shorter time frame and the same amount of games. We will see valleys and hills, and hopefully we learn and grow from it all.”
When asked what Coach Tune expects out of her upper classmen she began with, “I expect all my veteran seniors Maci Tharp, Bre Daniels, Kallee McDaniels, Mackenize Tomey and Grace Berkshire to step out of their comfort zone, lead, be the best, unselfish teammates and push the underclassmen.”
“Veteran Juniors that will be expected to take over leading as well include Korie Lind, Bryleigh Wallace and Kaylie Wagner,” Coach Tune expanded. “I would really like to see Aliyah Kramer and Ady Holden step up into a role and show me the potential I know they have.”
This season Liberty boasts a large group of talented Sophomores and Freshman. Coach Tune went on to explain that she is excited to see what their work ethic brings out of the veterans. “There are several who could earn some varsity time if they want it bad enough. On my court, no one is guaranteed a spot. If I have an underclassman earning a spot, they will see time. We will know pretty quick who put in the time when no one was looking, and I am excited to see who that was. The time when no one is watching, when the coach is not around, that is the most important time spent to improve.”
Wrapping up, Coach Tune stated, “I always get so attached to my girls, so I always want so much for them. However, I cannot put in the downtime for them. I want to see unselfishness, teamwork, passion and love for each other and the game. A stellar work ethic, and growth that will impact their future success. Any season that has these things is a very stellar season. We obviously always want to compete and win, but it takes the above factors to do that with our tough schedule. I am just anxious to see who is ready to battle outside of their comfort zone, on and off the court.”
The Lady Eagles will start their season with a home opener on Aug. 28 against Licking, the following three games will be away games. West Plains on Aug. 31, and Strafford on Sept. 5. The Strafford game should be an interesting one as Strafford knocked Liberty out of sectional play 17-25, 24-26, 16-25 last year.
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