2015 Panther volleyball team replacing nine seniors
By SEAN SHAPIRO
When coach Gretchen Peterson passed out uniforms it was a bit of a free-for-all.
Players had their pick of almost any jersey available, except for numbers 1, 6 and 16.
That’s because those were reserved for Allee Nix, Peyton Pfifer, and Tori Graves — the three returning members of the varsity team.
It’s a perk for the trio, but it’s also an added responsibility. With 10 new varsity players, Nix, Pfifer, and Graves are expected to escalate from the supporting cast into starring roles.
“They’re all looking toward us,” Nix said.
“But, it’s exciting,” Pfifer interjected. “Last year everyone knew what they were doing. This year we’re still clicking and learning, but you can feel us getting better.”
And the three returners, along with Peterson, are well aware patience could be the operative word this season.
The Panthers have a difficult non-district schedule — filled with Class 5A and 6A teams — and new additions have already been thrown into the varsity fire when Liberty Hill opened the season against Canyon Lake and Schertz Clements on Tuesday.
“It’s higher intensity and more discipline,” Pfifer said. “It’s longer practices and hours. But, if you hold yourself to that higher level — and keep pushing yourself — that’s what keeps a player at a varsity level.”
And at Liberty Hill the “varsity level” is a bit higher than most other schools.
While Peterson admitted the record likely won’t be nearly as impressive as 2014, the Panthers haven’t ruled out a return to the Class 4A, Region IV tournament and another potential run at the final four in Garland.
“The goal is to get to the regional tournament, because from their anything can happen,” Peterson said. “We know our record won’t be as good. But that’s why we have to play a tougher non-district schedule, and realize that we’re getting better against bigger teams — even if it doesn’t mean a win every night.”
But, once district play starts in late September, the Panthers are expected to start winning on a consistent basis — and the new varsity additions are well aware of that.
The junior varsity team and freshman teams both won district titles in 2014, and Peterson said several of those players “could have been varsity players at any other school” in District 25-4A last season.