By Joseph Garcia
DRIPPING SPRINGS – Although the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers started Tuesday’s bi-district playoff match solid, it was the way they closed out the Boerne Greyhounds for a 3-1 win that was impressive and memorable.
Liberty Hill will move on to round two of the 3A volleyball playoffs after taking care of Boerne 25-16, 19-25, 25-21, 25-19.
“It’s a good win,” said Liberty Hill Coach Gretchen Peterson. “It’s a playoff game so anytime you win and get to play another day, that’s exciting.”
The Lady Panthers showed tremendous energy to begin the match and used it wisely in the first game.
Liberty Hill got out to a quick 4-0 lead after senior Catherine Heath got things started on her serve. She used a tip to make it 2-0 and followed it up with an ace to give the Lady Panthers a 3-0 advantage.
The closest the Greyhounds got in the first game was when the score was 11-10 Liberty Hill. Soon after, a tip by Jordan Redmond, an off-speed ace by her sister Peyton Redmond and a kill that painted the line by Heath brought the score to 15-11.
A few minutes later, the Lady Panthers wrapped up the first game when Heath and J. Redmond teamed
on a block to give Liberty Hill the first set 25-16.
The second game was much closer as the teams traded leads and tied 10 times throughout. Liberty Hill found itself down most of the game and with the score tied 12-12, Boerne went on a 13-7 run to snatch the win 19-25.
Boerne “played such scrappy defense and wouldn’t quit,” Peterson said. “We knew that about them, we knew it was going to be that sort of fight. They are a good team, they are really young and only have one senior so they have a lot to be excited about.”
What ensued the rest of the match was an exciting, nail-biting battle between two teams that did not want to end their seasons. Veteran leadership was likely the difference and the Lady Panthers had the advantage on that front with six seniors and three juniors to Boerne’s one senior and eight juniors.
Once again Liberty Hill jumped out to a lead, this time 3-1 after a kill by junior Emily Philpott, who had the biggest impact for either team for the duration of the match.
Following another Philpott kill to tie the game 11-11, the Greyhounds took the advantage 11-12 and padded their lead to 15-19. It was crunch time for the Lady Panthers and as they managed to do in matches throughout the season, made a valiant comeback.
After a Heath kill pulled Liberty Hill to 20-21, Philpott stepped to the service line and did not vacate that position for quite some time.
With Philpott at the service helm, the Lady Panther went on a 7-0 run that included a block by Kallie Perrin, a kill by J. Redmond and a kill by Heath to end the game 25-21.
“Emily (Philpott) served phenomenal,” Peterson said. “We went on like a 14-0 run or something like that and that’s amazing. That’s what you like to see in the playoffs; things that you maybe didn’t feel were your bread and butter come out. So, it was good to see those things and those players step up in that way.”
Philpott was not done yet.
As the rotation dictated, Philpott was due to serve next for the Lady Panthers on their next possession. All the junior outside hitter did was continue to have the hot hand en route to a 14-1 start to the fourth game. In total, Liberty Hill rattled off 20 straight points with Philpott serving between games three and four.
“It just happened to work out that way,” Peterson said. “I could have done my lineup differently, but I like to stay in the rotations. It was just her turn up and she did great with it.”
However, after a Heath kill to make the score 15-3, the Greyhounds, playing with their backs against the wall, went on a 16-7 run to inch within striking distance of the Lady Panthers, bringing the score to 22-18.
Things did get dicey for a few minutes, but the Lady Panthers pulled out the game and the match winning 25-19 after a long serve by Boerne ended the Greyhounds’ hopes of moving to the next round.
“It wasn’t our best game, we definitely made plenty of errors, but I think at times when we needed to come back and make big plays we found ways to do that,” Peterson said. “We looked good; it’s a playoff game. If you get excited about a playoff game then you don’t deserve to be here.”
The Lady Panthers proved they are indeed deserving of the playoff victory.
In the next round of the playoffs, the Lady Panthers will see the La Vernia Bears, who are coming off a 3-2 win over Schulenburg Monday, Oct. 31.
The coin flip to determine the Lady Panthers’ destiny was won by Coach Peterson following Tuesday’s match.
“We won the flip and the other coach wanted to play on Thursday, which was way too fast of a turnaround for me,” she said. “So, I was excited about that.”
The second-round playoff match will be played on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. at a site yet to be determined, but will most likely be held in Hays, New Braunfels or San Marcos.
Coach Peterson is hoping for a strong Liberty Hill presence.
“Hopefully, playing on Saturday, we can get some of the football players to come out and as many people there to get some excitement behind us,” she said.