By Taylor Grafft
The Liberty Hill Lady Panther Volleyball team showed why they like playing at home so much on Tuesday night in their opener against the Marble Falls Lady Mustangs.
A large crowd of supporters showed up to cheer the Lady Panthers in their first game back in the cozy, win-inspiring gym. Coach Gretchen Peterson hopes that her team will enjoy the same success they did in 2013 when the Lady Panthers were basically unbeatable on the home court.
The Lady Panthers cruised to a 3-0 sweep of the Lady Mustangs as they continue to fight through the first half of their season and non-district schedule.
“We’re definitely getting better,” said Peterson. “We still have a long ways to go, but we got the win. By no means are we where we need to be, but we’re moving in the right direction. I think it’s clear that the players are becoming a little more comfortable and gaining confidence.”
Liberty Hill wasted no time in taking the victory when they won the first set 25-18 with key kills from co-captain Peyton Redmond and senior outside hitter Jill Green.
“Jill played really well for us and swung great from the outside,” said Peterson. “I thought she also served really well. I know she had some service errors, but she serves so aggressively so that’s a little trade-off. She is getting a lot more consistent with that. One of the things Jill has really been working on is her defense. I thought she played better defense than we saw from her in the last couple matches.”
The Lady Panthers started out with a 7-3 advantage in the first set, before pushing that lead to 12-5 after a double hit by Marble Falls. The Lady Mustangs brought the set within three points after a net violation by Liberty Hill.
Liberty Hill quickly fixed that as they went on an 8 to 1 run with Redmond picking up two kills during the run. Redmond then added three more kills and a block assist as the Lady Panthers finished out and took the first set.
In the second set, the Lady Panthers once again got off to a fast start and took a 11-2 advantage and Marble Falls was forced to call a timeout after co-captain and senior libero Payton Walker picked up a service ace.
Marble Falls was able to go on a 5 to 2 run to bring the set back within six points, but the Lady Panthers continued to neither lose sight of finishing the set with a victory.
Walker, senior setter Kelly McKinzey, and Green all took part in an excellent play to make it 15-8 in favor of Liberty Hill. Walker started it off with a nice dig and pass to McKinzey who set up Green for a powerful, finishing kill.
Liberty Hill went on to take the set 25-17 with the final point coming on a kill by Green.
In the third and final set, the Lady Panthers had their best team play of the evening with excellent communication and defense. Liberty Hill jumped out to an 8-1 advantage with Green picking up three aces in the process.
Marble Falls was able to rally and pull within three points, 11-8, after several unforced errors and reception errors by the Lady Panthers. The girls buckled down and started to play well following that scare as they went on a 14 to 5 run to finish out the set 25-13 and win the game.
The Lady Panthers were coming off an up-and-down tournament appearance last week in the AISD Tournament where they played opponents like Robison, Fredericksburg, Copperas Cove at Akins and Bowie High School.
On August 15, the Lady Panthers probably played their best game of the tournament when they beat Robison 2-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-18). Their communication and serving in that game was strong and their defense was steadily improving throughout the sets.
The Lady Panthers returned in their third game on Friday with a 2-1 loss to Copperas Cove in a game that featured several controversial calls by the referees and some suspect score keeping by some of the Akins High School students. Regardless, the Lady Panthers still showed a lot of fight in that game as all three sets were close.
Liberty Hill returned on Saturday and played at Bowie High School to finish out the tournament and gained valuable experience and team bonding time.
The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers Junior Varsity team took an easy 2-0 sweep over Marble Falls on Tuesday night. In the first set the JV team cruised to a 25-5 victory. In the second set the Lady Panthers JV team struggled and had to come from behind to take a 25-22 win.
The Lady Panthers Freshman team was also very smooth in their play as they cruised to a 2-0 sweep as well, to remain undefeated so far this season under Coach Jamie Junkin.
In the first set, the freshman team took a 15-7 advantage before Marble Falls was forced to call a timeout to regroup. The freshmen came out of the timeout and went on a 10-6 run to win the set 25-13. In the second set it was more of the same as the team cruised to another 25-13 set win.
“I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by very talented athletes so it’s made my job easy,” said Junkin. “I was impressed that the team stayed focused and kept the intensity and didn’t let up.”