By Joseph Garcia
In an improvement from last season, the Lady Panthers advanced to the Regional Quarterfinal round of the playoffs this year and were met by the No. 7 ranked Springtown Porcupines for the right to advance to Snyder for the semifinals.
It was a matchup of two highly-talented teams with championship aspirations on Tuesday in Waco. After taking out Mineral Wells last Friday 3-0, the Lady Panthers moved on to clash with a top-ranked opponent in Springtown in what was a great back-and-forth match.
Liberty Hill (27-18) scratched its way back into the first set using a 20-9 run to come from behind for a 25-21 win, to go up 1-0. Springtown (31-3), however, would take three-straight closely contested sets and advance to the semifinals with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-23) victory over the Lady Panthers, ending their season.
“I was very pleased with the way they played,” said Liberty Hill Coach Gretchen Peterson. “The girls should keep their heads held high. It was a tough, hard-fought game and the girls never gave in. We just made more errors than they did.”
After the first-set victory, the Lady Panthers found themselves tied 19-19 in the second before the defense and blocks from Springtown began to give them problems. Much like all the sets played Tuesday night, the second could have gone either way, but the Lady Porcupines edged out Liberty Hill to win it 25-21.
Once Liberty Hill dropped the third set as well, the Lady Panthers were against the ropes and responded well in the fourth. However, down 15-16, Liberty Hill tied it up when Jill Green ended the longest rally of the night with a kill.
Still down 21-22, senior Emily Philpott sent a kill over the net to tie it up at 22. Liberty Hill tied it again 23-23 on a Madi Sharp kill, but a block by Springtown followed by a kill ended the set and the match with the Lady Porcupines winning 25-23.
Liberty Hill’s volleyball season may be over, but Coach Peterson could not be more proud of the way her girls played all season, overcoming adversity such as the season-ending injury to Jaycie Pluenneke.
“I would not trade this season for anything,” Peterson said. “They never once used injuries as an excuse when we lost Jaycie (Pluenneke) and did not let it bother them.”
The Lady Panthers volleyball program will say goodbye to seniors Lexi Lucas, Samantha Rimann and Emily Philpott. But Coach Peterson will retain a solid nucleus of players with Payton Walker, Jill Green, Peyton Redmond, Kallie Perrin, Jaycie Pluenneke and Mason and Madi Sharp returning next year.
Needless to say, the cupboard will not be bare next season, especially with some very talented players moving up from a district champion JV squad.
“This is a special group of girls and we will miss our seniors very much,” Coach Peterson said. “But we are very excited for what lies ahead with most of the girls coming back.”