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Vernon Hills sophmore guard Haley Liberman practices Monday. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Before Haley Lieberman ever played a varsity game, she had what you might call a rookie moment.
The Vernon Hills sophomore guard had her name called by the public address announcer before the Cougars’ first game of the season against Maine East Nov. 12. Instead of waiting behind the bench to chest bump the next player called, which is routine, she was a bit lost on what to do.
“She was standing on the other side of the court by the other team,” junior guard Sydney Smith said. “I was like ‘Liebs come over here!’ ”
Forgiven for her pregame flub, Lieberman has made up for the gaffe with her stellar play. Standing just 5-foot-4, Lieberman has split point guard duties early this season with senior Lauren Webb. More of a traditional post player at 6-foot, Webb is filling the role vacated by graduated Abby Springer but is also preparing Lieberman.
In a Nov. 19 game against Glenbrook North, Lieberman showed the defensive quickness, shooting and ball handling skills needed to play the position. In one offensive sequence, she broke outside zone coverage, took a feed from DePaul-bound senior Meri Bennett-Swanson, and knocked down a 15-foot jumper. Then, after a missed shot by the Spartans, Lieberman took a pass from Smith in transition, broke a double team at the foul line, and finished with a one-handed layup.
Her emergence gives the Cougars another dimension to go along with the post presence of Bennett-Swanson and wing play of Smith.
“Over the summer, we didn’t know what sophomores were going to be with us. We didn’t know who would be playing point guard,” coach Paul Brettner said. “Through a lot of hard work in the summer and fall, she really impressed us in tryouts and came ready to play.”
Part of that is accepting errors.
In the Glenbrook North game, Lieberman had an entry pass into the post tipped away, along with a few balls thrown out of bounds. After those turnovers, the collective attitude Vernon Hills’ older players projected was one of steadiness, not stress.
“I’m not scared to make a mistake. They are never yelling at me,” Lieberman said. “I can do something and then I’ll do it once, and they’ll tell me how to fix it, and I’ll fix it.”
Just like the pre-game chest bump. Did that get straightened out?
“Oh, yeah,” Smith said. “Next game we were perfectly fine.”