The Liberty Blue Jays boast a well-balanced and deep team of role-players.
But when Madison Duello gets on a roll, watch out. The 6-foot-3 senior has the ability and confidence to take over a match.
She did just that on Saturday and helped the undefeated Blue Jays to their first state tournament berth in school history with a 25-13, 26-24 win over Platte County in the Class 4 sectional championship at Lee’s Summit.
“This has been our goal for the past four years and it has never happened,” said Duello, who has committed to play for the University of Wisconsin. “We’ve never executed like we have this year. For us to do this my last year is awesome.”
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Duello hammered four kills and picked up two blocks in a nine-point span in game one, sparking a 12-1 run for Liberty. That stretch turned an 11-10 game into a runaway.
“Our team is kind of young and we’ve never been in this position and I knew I could step up and help the team out,” Duello said. “We all played together and did our jobs and executed.”
Things weren’t as easy for Liberty in the second game. In fact, Platte County — which finished the season with a 33-3-2 record — carried the momentum for much of the game. The Pirates got a pair of Rylie Stephens kills in a 7-2 run that put the Blue Jays in a 13-7 hole.
But Liberty scored 10 of the next 12 points with Duello leading the way again. She had seven kills and a block in that span, including three straight to give the Blue Jays a 17-16 lead.
The two teams traded the lead three more times before Liberty ended it with a Kaitlyn Baker kill.
“For us to get over that sectional hump and to accomplish something that has never been done in school history is amazing,” Liberty coach April Fleming said. “It means a lot to us coaches and the girls.”
Liberty (30-0-3) will face Ozark (32-5) in Gape Girardeau on Friday.