Heartbreaking end to Lady Panthers’ season

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Sophomore Bethany McLeod gets under the ball while teammates Peyton Phifer (left) and Savannah Stanley (right) prepare to spring into action. Head coach Gretchen Peterson, center, and the team bench watch in apprehension, as the Lady Panthers fight their way back from a two-set deficit Tuesday night. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Sophomore Bethany McLeod gets under the ball while teammates Peyton Phifer (left) and Savannah Stanley (right) prepare to spring into action. Head coach Gretchen Peterson, center, and the team bench watch in apprehension, as the Lady Panthers fight their way back from a two-set deficit Tuesday night. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Lauren Jette

AUSTIN — The Lady Panthers volleyball season came to an unexpectedly early end in a heartbreaking match against the Wimberley Lady Texans in Austin Tuesday night.

Liberty Hill lost 20-25, 25-27, 27-25, 25-18 and 9-15 at Toney Burger Center in a bi-district matchup.

“When it is so close like that, they’re just going to replay those points over and over in their head and that makes me sad because I know those seniors are going to replay it and they don’t get a chance to come back out,” said coach Gretchen Peterson.

“So for them, I’m really sad, but for the underclassmen, I know that they will get a chance and as hard as a loss it was, for such a young team that was a great learning experience. Not that I wanted it to go that way, but man, for them to come back from two games down and continue to fight, they just showed so much character and I thought poise even when they were down.”

It was a rough start for the Lady Panthers, who found themselves in a 1-5 hole to start the match off, although they were able to cut down an 8-point deficit to put some pressure on the Lady Texans.

In the second set, Liberty Hill took the lead to start, but Wimberley came back and the two teams exchanged leads, then tied at 25 points each, before the Lady Texans put two straight points together to take a two set lead.

The third set was also a dogfight, but the Lady Panthers finally settled in and took the set on a kill by Carson Yarborough.

Liberty Hill jumped out to a 6-1 lead to start the fourth set and never let up on the way to forcing a fifth and deciding set, where the Lady Panthers managed to stay with Wimberley before burying themselves with errors and mistakes to fall short in the comeback.

“I think the first set, we just came out a little tight and a little nervous, admittedly, they know that,” Peterson said.

“Game two, we really got a rhythm going and got some momentum, Three, we were down, and they just sort of finally realized, we’re fine. We just have to play to win. Wimberley, I think, we just really started to move the ball a little better in the middle and got some runs going. I thought our serving got a little bit more aggressive.

“Unfortunately, game five, we struggled with serve-receive, that ended up biting us in the rear end. When you can’t pass or serve, you can’t win. I don’t want that to be the defining moment of our season. (It was a ) great, great match, we wish Wimberley the best of luck. I’m just really proud of this group, sad to see the season’s over, but not sad about the season itself. It was a good season.”

The loss marked the final match in a Lady Panther uniform for seniors Peyton Phifer, Carson Yarborough, Allie Child, Carley Maples, Kelsey Hamrick and Allee Nix.

“They were just great leaders, they were supportive, great role-players,” Peterson said of her seniors.

“They did what they needed to do and they meant so much to me because they gave me everything they could, they just worked hard and gave everything of themselves to the team and I know that what they meant to me pales in comparison to what they meant to these underclassmen. They were great upperclassmen.”

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