By TAYLOR GRAFFT
WACO — The Liberty Hill Lady Panther advance to the Regional Semifinals to face Abilene Wylie Friday after sweeping Stephenville 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-21) on Nov. 11.
Monday’s win marks the third straight sweep by the Lady Panthers in three playoff matches. The win also allowed Liberty Hill to move up to an eighth place ranking in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Poll.
In the next round against Wylie, the competition will be harder because of Wylie’s experience in the playoffs.
“Wylie is a good team that has a lot of experience in the playoffs and has made playoff runs before,” said Head Coach Gretchen Peterson. “They have some good athletes just like us and it should be a good match, like it should be at that level of the playoffs.”
Junior Peyton Redmond led the Lady Panthers to victory with her dominating performance. Redmond finished with 12 kills and added four aces to guide her team through to the next round.
“Before this season even started our whole goal as a team was to stay positive,” said Redmond. “We didn’t’ want one point to affect us in this game because we knew Stephenville was going to get their kills, but we knew we were going to get more swings and even betters ones. Going into a game, I play like every game could be my last. So I go out with all that I have. We can’t settle here. Our goal is to get to the Regional tournament, but we can’t settle once we get there. Whoever we’re playing, we need to keep focused and come out like we did tonight.”
“Redmond’s a very smart player and she’s very athletic and physical,” said Peterson. “She played extremely well. She was really in control and led us in multiple ways, and came through with some great swings and found holes when we needed her to at the right times. Really across the board the girls played well. They played off each other’s confidence and did a phenomenal job.
“I thought Payton Walker played one of her better games,” Peterson added. “She was everywhere and she was so focused and into the game. She really kept the tone on defense what it needed to be.”
Setter Kallie Perrin once again got her teammates involved throughout the match and moved the ball around well. She finished with 27 assists.
Senior Madi Sharp led Liberty Hill with seven digs in the match, while middle blocker Jaycie Pluenneke finished with two blocks.
“The girls played with a lot of maturity,” Peterson said. “They played really calm and never really lost their composure. Even in hectic moments, they kept playing. It’s not always going to be pretty and we may lose one or two points, but those aren’t going to make us lose the match. There was no reason to panic and they kept pushing until things happened. Some of the swings we took were long or wide at times, but they were the right angles and they were trying to hit the right spots. So the effort was there.”
In the first set against Stephenville, the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 3-1 lead with a kill by Madi Sharp that was set by Perrin. The Stephenville Honeybees rallied back to score three straight points and tie it at 4-all. A kill by Redmond put Liberty Hill back on top, before a kill by Stephenville tied it at 5-all.
Perrin’s dumpshot regained the lead, before the girls went on a 4-1 run. With the Panthers leading 10-6, a hitting error by Stephenville forced that coach to take their first timeout to regroup.
Coming out of the timeout, kills by Redmond and Mason Sharp put the Lady Panthers on top 15-9. The Honeybees rallied to cut the deficit to 16-13. A kill and a block by Perrin gave the Panthers a 18-13 lead. Another hitting error by Stephenville forced them to call their second timeout of the set.
The Lady Panthers finished off the set with a 25-20 win. The closest Stephenville came in the final run was three points, before a kill by Pluenneke, that was set by Perrin allowed Liberty Hill to take the first game.
In the second set, Liberty Hill started off hot. Jumping out to a 4-0 lead after an ace by Jill Green and a kill by Pluenneke. A double hit by Liberty Hill gave Stephenville its first point of the set. But the Honeybees then had two double hit calls against them to allow the Panthers to take a 6-1 lead.
A missed serve and hitting error by Stephenville gave the Panthers a 9-3 lead before the Honeybee coach called a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Lady Panthers went on a 4-0 run with a kill by Redmond that was assisted by Mason Sharp being the highlight of the run.
Stephenville rallied back to pick up two points, but a kill by Payton Walker gave the Panthers a 15-5 lead.
A kill by Green that was assisted by Perrin allowed the Panthers to take an 18-7 lead. A net violation then gave the Panthers a 19-9 lead a few points later.
The Honeybees rallied back to score four straight points and make it 20-14, before Coach Peterson called a timeout. The Lady Panthers finished off the second set with a 5-1 run with an ace from Pluenneke and a kill from Redmond.
Going into the third and final set with a two game advantage, the Panthers wasted no time in jumping out to a 4-2 lead after kills from Mason Sharp and Redmond.
The Honeybees scored two straight points to tie the game at 4-all. A double hit by the Panthers gave Stephenville the lead, before a kill by Redmond tied the set at 5-all.
Stephenville took the advantage after two straight kills to make it 5-7. An ace by Redmond tied it at 7-all. Redmond then picked up another ace to make it 9-7.
An ace by Green gave the Panthers a 12-9 lead, before the Panthers went on a 4-0 run.
A lift violation by the Panthers allowed Stephenville to cut the deficit to 16-11. Pluenneke blocked a Honeybee attack to force Stephenville to take a timeout.
Coming out of the timeout, the Panthers allowed Stephenville to rally back and cut the deficit to one point, 17-16. A lift violation by the Honeybees made it 19-16 a few points later.
The Panthers took a 20-18 lead after Remond picked up her 11th kill of the match. Green then picked up a kill in the next point to make it 21-18. Stephenville would rally back to make it 21-20, before the Panthers pulled away to take the three set and the match, 25-21.