By Joseph Garcia
Tuesday night’s volley match between the 5-0 Liberty Hill Lady Panthers and the 4-1 Gatesville Lady Hornets figured to be a heavyweight battle to take control of District 8-3A.
Instead, in front of a rowdy home crowd it was a seemingly dominant performance by the No. 23 ranked team in the state with a 3-0 sweep (25-17, 25-16, 25-17) of Gatesville. The win completed the regular-season sweep of the Lady Hornets and improved the Lady Panthers’ record to 6-0 in the district and 21-17 overall.
“I think we played well, we served really aggressive and disrupted their offense a little bit and that definitely helped us,” said Liberty Hill volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson. “They could never quite get those runs going. We served well and we swung well and made it hard for them to get the ball. They stuck to the game plan that we talked about and carried it out.”
The match started off with a scary moment for the Lady Panthers as Jaycie Pluenneke went down with a right knee injury after just the first point. Jill Green stepped in for the injured Pluenneke and contributed to the front line’s success to help Liberty Hill to the win.
There were six ties in the first with momentum swings in both sides’ favor. Then tied at 11, Liberty Hill closed out the first on a 14-6 run highlighted by two kills for Peyton Redmond, an ace by Kallie Perrin and finished off by one of Madi Sharp’s thee kills in the set.
Coach Peterson was proud of the way the team did not let down when they could have after Pluenneke’s exit.
“They kept their poise and they rallied around Jill (Green) and they rallied around each other,” Peterson said. “They did a really good job of stepping up. They didn’t let it rattle them and I am really proud of them for that. They really pulled through as a team.”
After a 3-3 tie in the second set, Liberty Hill would lead the rest of the way and overcame a few miscommunication issues to win 25-16 with Sharp once again ending it with a kill.
Rimann closed out the final set with a match-point kill (25-17), causing the Panthers Den to erupt in cheers after a huge statement district victory.
“Our serve-receive kept us in the game,” Peterson said. “It made things so much more under control and Kallie (Perrin) so many more options and that gave an opportunity for Sam (Rimann) and Emily (Philpott) and all of those girls to step up and make big plays.”
As for Green, playing middle blocker is not something new. In fact she excelled at the position last year on the JV team. Peterson was impressed with the way she handled the pressure of playing well in such a big match in must-win game.
“Jill (Green) responded well,” Peterson said. “She did exactly what we needed her to do. We needed her to get a touch on the ball, close the block and hold their middle blocker. I know she didn’t expect it, but it’s not a new position for her; she played it on JV all of last year.”
Up next for the Lady Panthers is a trip to Llano on Friday, Oct. 12, before hosting rival Burnet at home Tuesday, Oct. 16. Neither match will be easy with the Lady Yellowjackets (4-2) always playing tough at home and Burnet (3-3) bringing the intensity that comes from a long-time rivalry.
With just four district matches remaining on the schedule, every one counts.
“Both of those are tough matches,” Peterson said of the upcoming two contests. “They are all must wins at this point but those two are not two that we can afford to take lightly by any stretch of the imagination. We will enjoy this win, but we’ve got to get ready.”