Liberal faces a difficult road test today in its second straight appearance in the sectional round of the MSHSAA Class 1 volleyball playoffs.

The Bulldogs (16-11-2), from the Spring River Valley Conference, travel to New Haven to challenge the host Shamrocks (29-5) at 3 p.m.

Green Ridge (22-9-2) and Osceola (26-5-1) clash at 4:30.

The winners tangle at 6 with the survivor advancing to the round robin semifinals next week in the Show Me Center at Cape Girardeau.

Liberal, in its third season under Becky Lowery, hopes to improve on its sectional effort in 2013. Those Bulldogs lost to SRVC member Jasper before the Eagles lost to Osceola.

Coach Lowery said the team was able to watch New Haven play on an Internet broadcast on Thursday night.

“New Haven has some tall hitters,” Lowery said. “We’ll have to block well. I think we’ll be fine if we can take care of the ball at the net. They did a lot with their middle hitters.”

Liberal has three returning senior starters in setter Shaylee Stanley and middle hitters Brittany Ayers and Kennedy Kirby.

Lowery, who’s assisted by Teresa Ayers (Brittany’s mom), said Liberal consistently uses five more players in senior Maddie Linsteadt, junior Libero Haley Page, sophomores Alexys Barton and Makayla Fry and freshman Carly Spencer.

Senior McKenna Higgins, who’s injured, leads a six-player bench, Lowery said.

Others are sophomore Kylah Simpson and frosh Jaci Coleman, Callie Cornell, Kaylee Daniels and Delanie Freeze.

Liberal, which finished 6-3 in the SRVC, defeated Jasper on its floor to capture District 11. No. 1 seed Liberal made it 3-for-3 against second-seeded Jasper this season.

Liberal players planned to depart for New Haven at 8 this morning.

Lowery, a graduate of Nevada High School and Missouri State, has been coaching for more than 20 years. She’s coached at Nevada as well as Appleton City, Clinton and El Dorado Springs.

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