Lady Panthers finish season as District Champs

By Joseph Garcia

District 8-3A Volleyball Champs are back row from left, Mason Sharp, Jaycie Pluenneke, Madi Sharp, Emily Philpott, Peyton Redmond, Jill Green and manager Molly Castle. Front row from left are Lexi Lucas, Payton Walker, Samantha Rimann and Kallie Perrin. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

 It was a pretty sweet way to end the regular season for the Lady Panthers’ volleyball team Tuesday night with a sweep over Lampasas (25-12, 25-17, 25-15) officially crowing Liberty Hill as undefeated District 8-3A Champions.

Having only dropped two sets (30-2) throughout district play, Liberty Hill’s dominance was on display week in and week out. Liberty Hill finishes the regular season with a 25-17 overall record and 10-0 in District 8-3A.

“It’s great; it’s kind of what we wanted to go out and do,” said Liberty Hill Coach Gretchen Peterson. “I don’t know that we wanted to go 10-0, but we said we wanted to win district and 10-0 came with it and we are excited about that. I am happy for the girls that they get to experience it.”

The Lady Panthers capped their undefeated district season by defeating a Lampasas team that has logged just one 8-3A win this season and they did it without Samantha Rimann, who was sick, and of course, Jaycie Pluenneke.

Rimann is one of three seniors on the team. Emily Philpott and Lexi Lucas are the other two elders on the championship squad.

“In the two years she’s been here she’s made tremendous contributions and has really evolved into one of our go-to players,” Peterson said of Rimann. “We are going to miss her tremendously.”

As she’s done most of the season, on Tuesday night Philpott led the team in blocks with two. She seemingly has steadily improved with each passing match and continues to blossom with confidence both offensively and defensively.

“Emily (Philpott) came here sophomore year and has continued to evolve every year,” Peterson said.

“Her hard work has really paid off and she is getting to go play at the next level. I really think as good as she’s gotten, she will continue to grow and get better.”

Philpott said she had mixed emotions after Tuesday’s win at the Panthers Den with it being her final match there. But with that said, she is looking forward to making a memorable playoff run with her teammates.

“I’m excited that we are going into the playoffs, but at the same time sad because this is my last home game and I’m not going to be playing at Liberty Hill again,” said Philpott. “I am so happy. This is the perfect way to end my senior year. (Finishing) 10-0 and at home was just the icing on the cake.”

Then there is Lexi Lucas who played her first year of varsity volleyball this season. Lucas has filled in nicely whenever her team needed her. Her senior status is also a calming influence on the court for the other girls to emulate.

“Lexi (Lucas) has worked so hard and was a pleasant surprise for me,” Peterson said. “She stepped in and had to set for district matches. She has stepped up and assumed roles that her team needed her to do and she did wonderfully. We will miss her.”

Coach Peterson said all of the seniors will be missed and she wishes them the best of luck. However, there is still work to be done after somewhat lackadaisical performances in the last few matches. Peterson said she is happy that the team won the championship and is in the playoffs, but is looking forward to the team improving and increasing its intensity.

“The last few matches were not our best,” she said. “We have a week and a half before our playoff game and we know if we play that way we will not be in the playoffs for very long. The girls understand that.”

The Lady Panthers’ first playoff match will be played on either Nov. 1, 2, or 3 against either Burkburnett, Iowa Park or Mineral Wells, most likely. The site of the match will be in either Dublin or Bangs, according to Peterson.

Liberty Hill has a first-round bye due to its championship status, giving the team over a week to prepare. Coach Peterson will have her team ready to go.

“We have some things to work on,” she said. “We are not perfect my any means just because district is over. Now it’s a new season and everyone is 0-0.”