Erps embracing varsity role

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Lady Panther Kingsley Erps bumps the ball over the net during a match at Marble Falls on Tuesday night. (Lauren Jette Photo)

Lady Panther Kingsley Erps bumps the ball over the net during a match at Marble Falls on Tuesday night. (Lauren Jette Photo)

By SEAN SHAPIRO

AUSTIN — Kingsley Erps is well aware that she “has big shoes to fill” in her first season of varsity volleyball.

Like her teammates, she’s well aware of the expectations at Liberty Hill — the team reached the UIL State Tournament last season — and even with nearly wholesale changes, the Panthers are still expected to make an impact in the Class 4A, Region IV playoffs this year.

In order for that to happen, Liberty Hill coach Gretchen Peterson is going to need new varsity players, like Erps, to quickly adapt to the varsity games.

“I’m just trying to go out there, be a leader, and do my best,” Erps said. “I’m trying to be positive with the team.”

So far, so good.

On Aug. 15 at the Austin ISD Jason Landers Invitational, Erps impressed the coaching staff and she helped the Panthers post a 6-3 record, concluding with a third-place finish in the bronze bracket on Sunday.

Combined with a Tuesday night non-district win against Marble Falls, the Panthers are 7-5, and Erps said her confidence has been growing throughout the season.

That confidence has been based on her adjustment to varsity level — which is “much faster” than her time spent on junior varsity.

“Mentally one person can’t shut down (on the varsity level),” Erps said. “You have to stay together as a team. You have to really, I feel, you can’t get mad at each other. You have to advance.”

And Erps said the team is coming closer to that goal. The Panthers are starting to understand each other’s roles — they’re “not running into each other as much” she said — and the team is comfortable with sharing the responsibility.

Of course, the team is also pleased with Erps’ development as an outside hitter at the varsity level.

She’s become an aggressive, consistent attacker, and throughout the tournament she didn’t look like a varsity rookie.

“Kingsley is a talented player and is filling an important role for us,” Peterson said. “We are looking to her for leadership. I know she will step up and do a great job.”

And at the tournament that leadership was tested against much larger schools.

Of the Panthers’ nine tournament matches, seven of their opponents were from Class 5A or 6A.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Erps said. “We’re going to be playing smaller schools. So, this competition is going to help us out and get us ready for district, and further on.”

Liberty Hill was also given a taste of their own sized competition in a match against Fredericksburg on Saturday. Both teams made deep playoff runs in 2014, but lost large senior classes, and Liberty Hill won the match 2-0.

“It’s been a good tournament,” Erps said. “We’re excited about what we can do.”

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