Lady Panthers win volleyball home opener

By Joseph Garcia

Emily Philpott spikes one of her six kills during Tuesday’s opening win versus the Del Valle Cardinals. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Following a full weekend of tournament play against the area’s top 5A and 4A competition, the Lady Panther volleyball team returned home Tuesday and absolutely dominated visiting Del Valle.

Liberty Hill came out of the Austin ISD Tournament having withstood major competition. But on Tuesday,  the Lady Panthers were the best team on the court after defeating the visiting Cardinals in straight sets 3-0 (25-5, 25-6, 25-7) to improve to 6-6 overall in the early season.

“The tournament was a great opportunity to play really high competitive volleyball,” said Coach Gretchen Peterson. “The girls handled it really well despite the losses. We’re definitely on the right track and there is a lot of good stuff ahead. We have a lot of athletic ability, a lot of talent. It’s going to be an exciting year and I’m looking forward to it.”

The first game began with a 6-0 run with Samantha Rimann serving, which forced Del Valle to call an early timeout. Rimann ended the set with three aces.

Before anyone knew it, Liberty Hill was 19-3 and soon enough, Payton Redmond ended the first with one of her three kills in the period.

The Lady Panthers seemingly put on an offensive clinic and the second game saw more dominance from a service standpoint. Jaycie Pluenneke owned the Cardinals’ defense and with the help of her friends led Liberty Hill on a 14-0 run to begin the game.

Del Valle managed only six points in the period and a total of 18 in the entire match, pleasing Coach Peterson. She knows her team has a potent offense. But it is the defense she knows will carry the team in the long run.

“We have a lot of the talent and a lot of the potential, but (playing defense) is not going to come as natural to us,” she said. “Our hitters are very good and have a lot of experience there, but they are going to also have to be good defensive players. That’s something we have to focus on and really work on every single day.”

Del Valle made it interesting to begin the final game with the score tied 2-2, but all the Liberty Hill offensive fire power was just too much to handle.

Pluenneke and Rimann led the match with five aces each. Redmond had seven kills to top the Lady Panthers Tuesday night with Emily Philpott adding six of her own.

Defensively, Redmond, Payton Walker and Lexi Lucas chipped in with three digs each. And Philpott led the Lady Panthers with two blocks for the match.

As the season progresses, the Panthers Den will fill up with passionate fans, especially when Burnet comes to town. But for now the spectators are pleased to get their first glimpse of an athletic team that can potentially make the playoffs interesting.

“The beginning of the year brings all kinds of excitement and (the fans) get to see everything (for the first time),” Peterson said. “It’s a good group that will be fun to watch. And all three of our teams will be good this year.”

The Lady Panthers play again Friday, August 24, in Elgin, beginning with freshmen and junior varsity at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity squad at 6 p.m.