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Tice and Welch record 100 block seasons

PHOTO PROVIDED Grace Tice (left) and Lizzi Welch celebrate earning 100 blocks this season after a 3-0 win over Panther Valley on Saturday in the PIAA Class AA quarterfinals at Shamokin.

Last year, North Penn-Liberty juniors Grace Tice and Lizzi Welch watched mostly from the bench as the Mounties captured their third straight district title. They were determined to not just be spectators this year. The duos emergence as the middle hitters for North Penn-Liberty (30-1-1) has been key as the team has advanced to the state semifinals Tuesday against Trinity at Shamokin.

“Last year I sat the bench. I was a bench warmer. There’s no other way to put it,” Grace Tice said. “In the offseason I never missed a day of lifting. I went to all the open gyms and did a ton of work by myself. I wanted to be part of it this year, not just watching. I wanted to share in the glory and contribute to this team.”

Welch had similar feelings.

“I was happy for my team last year but I wanted to play,” she said. “I went to open gyms, team camps, and even camp on my own and it has paid off.”

Their hard work has done wonders for the team. Last year, the two combined for eight blocks and the team only had 109 total. This year, both Welch and Tice have gone over 100 blocks each as the team has 265, averaging twice as many on a per set basis as last year. What was once a weakness of Mountie teams in the past has become a strength this year.

“Grace and Lizzi have been so important to this team this year. They are both amazing athletes with a strong determination. They both waited for their chance and were then ready to shine when that chance came,” North Penn-Liberty coach Jennifer Lawri said. “I can’t say enough how pleased and how proud I am of these girls. Lizzi and Grace build each other up, cheer each other on. They celebrate their accomplishments together.”

Both have emerged as threats offensively as well. Tice played arguably her strongest match on Saturday against Panther Valley in the state quarterfinals when she had a team-high 13 kills. Welch does not take as many swings as Tice, but she’s been very efficient all year, and her .293 hitting percentage reflects that.

Their emergence as offensive threats is key for a team with two great outside hitters in Maddison Minyo and Charisma Grega, as it keeps teams from shading the outside hitters. If they do, Welch and Tice make them pay.

Tice and Welch may not be the biggest outside hitters left in the state, as they stand at 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-5, respectively. But they play big and their play has been even bigger for the Mounties this year.

Both of them will need to step up against a tall Trinity front line on Tuesday in the smeifinals. Expect them to not be fazed.

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