Although the Liberty Ranch Hawks usually keep around 10 players on their roster, this year’s Hawk head coach Mark Snow had planned to add a few more players to the varsity volleyball team.

Between some players competing in other sports and the limited numbers at tryouts, the Hawks ended up with the same number to which they’ve been accustomed.

“We only have 10 players. I usually don’t carry more than 10 players anyways but, because we don’t have that many, the girls that showed up, I kept,” Snow said. “We had a couple of other ones that weren’t going to be able to play because of other sports at the last minute, but this year I was going to keep more than 10 but it worked out to what I normally have. Kids moving up, we have more of those.”

The Hawks hosted Bret Harte on Sept. 3 and alternated wins with the Bullfrogs before winning the final set for a 3-2 overall victory.

The next day, the Hawks lost 3-1 against Bear Creek, which put their preseason record at 3-7.

Snow’s strategy in choosing this year’s schedule was to create a difficult preseason that would set the team up for success during the league season.

“We have a tough preseason, but I made it that way because I want to do well in league. The only way to do well in league is to get rid of the people that we were able to pound even if that means us getting pounded ourselves because we’ve taken our lumps this year,” Snow said.

The Hawks have already faced West Campus and Franklin of Elk Grove, in addition to facing Linden on Sept. 5 and Tokay on Sept. 10, and will take on Pioneer today and Laguna Creek.

Pioneer went 32-6 last season, reaching the quarterfinals of the D III playoffs and winning their league championship, and the Cardinals were 12-8 last season.

“We definitely plan to play schools that are bigger than us, higher divisions, but my goal is to win league and to move on to playoffs and to win a match in playoffs because we haven’t done either since I’ve been there and these kids, if they commit to playing defense, good things are going to happen for them,” Snow said.

Against Bret Harte, the Hawks led the first set with a commanding score for most of the set.

Using well-placed attacks and watching Bret Harte hit into unforced errors, the Hawks built a 20-12 lead after Bret Harte hit a flat shot that landed underneath the net.

Bret Harte then hit the ball out of bounds before the Hawks did the same; Bret Harte then slowly worked its way closer to the Hawks, getting within 24-22 before Liberty Ranch scored on the left side of the court for the 25-22 win.

The second set had multiple ties before the Hawks went on a mini-run, leading 15-9.

Their lead dwindled, however, and Bret Harte eventually tied it 20-20 before scoring the next three points and eventually winning 25-22.

The Hawks played most consistently in the third set and had the lead for most of the set and moved past an early 6-6 tie.

Bret Harte once again rallied, after the Hawks had taken a 23-17 lead, and scored six straight points, tying the game at 24-24.

After a 25-25 tie, however, the Hawks scored when the ball landed out of bounds after Bret Harte tried to return the ball and the Hawks scored again after Bret Harte hit another unforced error for the 27-25 score.

In the fourth set, Bret Harte won 25-16 before the Hawks bounced back and tore through the fifth set for the 15-10 win.

“We had our moments. The bottom line with this group is if we don’t figure out how to pass a serve (cause when we lost, every time we lost a set it’s because we couldn’t pass a serve and we went through stretches of five in a row)… this team has to figure out how not to let those runs happen in order,” Snow said afterward.

Highlights for Snow, however, included watching his team defend the ball.

“We played really good defense tonight. When we pass the ball our setter Bailey did an excellent job of getting the ball to our hitters on time.”

The Hawks’ next game is today at Pioneer High School.