PANTHERS OF THE WEEK: Hernandez, Kubesh reflect on volleyball

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By Lance Catchings

Seniors Mia Hernandez and Claire Kubesh competed hard all season for Liberty Hill with Hernandez often working back row and Kubesh with her timely swings, both helping to lead a young team to the playoffs this season.

Hernandez came through the ranks of the Lady Panther program and recalls watching as a young girl, excited about her eventual opportunity to take the floor.

“Growing up in Liberty Hill, even from junior high, this experience has been amazing for me,” Hernandez said. “We all came out with the goal to be as good as the girls on varsity. I remember being in junior high and coming to watch the older girls in the past, like Peyton Redmond, and wanting to be as good as them. You grow up waiting everyday to get to high school to have that chance to be as good as the ones who came before you.”

Playing for Head Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson was always important to Hernandez. From Peterson’s program, she learned lessons that carry far beyond the volleyball court.

“I feel like I waited so long to get to high school just to be on Peterson’s team,” she said. “Being a part of the team is just a great experience. Even as freshmen, you are still considered part of the team, and Peterson has made that known. One of the greatest lessons I learned in this program is to work hard when nobody is watching. Peterson has always said the people that work hard the most are the ones who will go far in life. You must go hard, whether people are watching or not. Working hard is something I will take with me.”

This year, her team went 29-17, but when asked, Hernandez couldn’t tell you the team record off the top of her head. That’s not because she isn’t proud, but because there were so many other things that she values over wins and losses.

“We had a lot of trust for each other, and we knew that with each other is how we would go far,” she said. “When you are with your team, you go through a lot together. You go through wins and losses, but you go through more than that. It makes reaching your goals even stronger, and you truly become a sisterhood. Playing volleyball here has been a blessing for sure. Everyday you wake up looking forward to going to practice with your teammates and Coach Peterson. You travel for tournaments and preseason, and you get to bond and have so much fun. I couldn’t tell you how many games we won or how many losses we took, but I remember being on the bus with my friends. I remember team dinners, and that is what will stick with me.”

Kubesh has only been a member of the volleyball program for three years, but her experience was everything she could have wanted.

“My experience on the volleyball team felt like a big family,” Kubesh said. “It was a good place to grow as a volleyball player and a person. I feel like I learned a lot from my teammates and my coach. I felt like I did not come in as much of a leader, but going into my senior season, I had to step up more. I wanted to help guide the new people to varsity, not just for this year, but to help our program in general. I stepped into more of a leadership role than I had in the past this season.”

The ups and downs of the season can always be tough, but Kubesh realizes she got through it because of her teammates.

“We had times this year where we did not click,” she said. “We had times later in the year where we found some chemistry. I remember just being in the locker room and talking to each other. We had some good practices and started to bond, which led to success on the court. Playing volleyball helped me make a lot of my friends here. It also taught me how to work with others and learn teamwork skills.”

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