By Joseph Garcia
Some things in life are just more important.
That is what Liberty Hill volleyball and track coach Gretchen Peterson, who dearly missed her athletes and students, feels when taking her three month maternity leave to bring her second child into the world, daughter Mason Faye Peterson on March 14.
“(Mason’s) doing really good,” Peterson said. “She is a really good baby, so no complaints there. She will be three months (old) on (June 14).”
Peterson said she too is doing well. This week she is packing up her classroom in preparation for the big move to the new Liberty Hill High School. But she missed the excitement and camaraderie of coaching.
“It’s hard,” she said. “You miss your routine and things like that and I missed a lot of track season. I missed seeing the (athletes) compete and being with them at workouts. But, there are bigger things in life and everyone understands that. It was still hard, but it was nice being at home with (my kids) and not have to worry or stress out that things were getting taken care of at school because I knew they would.”
Friday, May 24 was Coach Peterson’s first day back on the job, the morning of the athletic awards ceremony. She thanked Monica Miller for filling in and doing an outstanding job with the girls track team.
It was also the first time she had seen her entire 2012 volleyball team at once since taking her leave.
“I had been up here a couple of times signing papers and things like that, so I ran into them,” Peterson explained. “But that was the first time I saw the majority of all of them at the same time.”
The award ceremony itself was humbling and emotional for Peterson, especially when talking about some of the events that took place throughout the volleyball season, especially the injury to Jaycie Pluenneke.
The tough coach she is, Peterson went on to acknowledge each one of her players. She was especially proud of her three seniors Lexi Lucas, Emilie Philpott and Samantha Rimann.
“It’s fun to honor your kids, but you’re also sad to see your seniors go,” Peterson said. “It’s a good time for us to sit back and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and how proud you are of your kids. It’s always nice for them to get to hear us tell them that. I don’t know if we always take enough time to do that. It was nice to see all the kids together in every sport celebrating their success.”
As for the trio of volleyball seniors, each one played a vital role in the team’s successful district and area championship runs.
“All three of our seniors contributed a lot for us,” she said. “Sam (Rimann) and Emilie (Philpott) played for us all year and Lexi (Lucas) came in when we had injuries and to assume a lot of responsibility and that’s not easy. She handled that really well. We are going to miss them and we’re hoping that some of the underclassmen step up and assume some of those roles as players and leaders and we think that they can.”
Looking ahead to next season, many things will be different; but most notably opening a brand new gym. And since volleyball is the first season in the gym, the Lady Panthers and Coach Peterson will be the first varsity team to break in the new Panthers Den.
Peterson said there will be a honeymoon phase with their new home gym, but eventually they will get over the awe and focus on winning a district championship.
“I don’t know if we’re going to know what to do at first because we’re going to be like, ‘oh this is so nice’,” she said jokingly. “It’s just going to be an adjustment and I think it will be very nice and we’ll enjoy it, but it we’re still playing the same sport and our goals and what we’re there to do will be the same. We just have a little bit difference of a place to play in right now. I don’t really think it will affect us that much. I’ve never opened a new building before. It’s going to be great.”
Coach Peterson also thinks the 2013-2014 Lady Panthers can be great.
“Yes, all-everything Sam Rimann will be gone. And yes, big-time player Emilie Philpott will also be
playing college volleyball. And yes, Lexi Lucas brought leadership, smarts and toughness to a team riddled by injuries at times,” she said.
Those are three players who will certainly be missed, but from Coach Peterson’s standpoint it is not only a reloading year rather than rebuilding, but this “special” group has what it takes to catapult Liberty Hill volleyball to unchartered territory.
“Even though we graduated three seniors that did a lot for us, we still have the majority of our team coming back,” Peterson explained. “They’ve all gained more experience, they all have a lot more confidence and Jaycie (Pluenneke) will be healthy. I’m really excited about this team and what they have in potential to accomplish. We’re still going to have to work and we will have a lot of things to focus on, but the potential is there for a really long playoff run and really big wins.”