Ladies sweep Wimberley to break 20-year drought
By Taylor Grafft
AUSTIN — The Liberty Hill Panther volleyball team put forth a convincing, all-around team effort on Tuesday to get the job done and advance to Regionals in San Antonio this Friday.
With the team’s 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-22) sweep over the Wimberley Texans in the Regional Quarterfinal round, they also broke a 20-year winless streak against their opponents in front of a large and loud Panther crowd at Burger Center in Austin.
Liberty Hill jumped out to a commanding 2-0 lead over Wimberley in large part due to some solid defense and precision passing. Even though the Panthers struggled in some areas like at the service line, giving up six points, they were still able to stay energized and give themselves a healthy advantage.
In the third set, the Panthers struggled with service-receive and two of the Texans’ stronger servers. That challenge resulted in Liberty Hill trailing for most of the set until the very end when they produced an amazing seven-point swing to complete their sweep and move on to the next round of the playoffs.
“What I’m most proud of is how they kept their composure and never seemed to get rattled,” said Coach Gretchen Peterson. “They really cleaned up from the service line when we needed to. Kelly (McKinzey) and our hitters did a phenomenal job with the ball despite the fact that our service-receive really struggled. Our hitters made some great decisions to keep us in the match. Really impressed with the mental focus and toughness it took to finish that game out.”
One player on the team that stood out in the match was Kaley Nelson. The senior was all over the court at times to keep the ball up and has been key in recent weeks.
“Kaley swung well,” said Peterson. “She really has been our secret weapon. I think a lot of people underestimate her height. She also blocks well for us. She jumps phenomenally. She came through with some really key kills.”
Junior Allee Nix also had a solid match on both ends. She produced key kills for the Panthers in the three sets and also had several key blocks to disrupt the Wimberley hitters.
Seniors Peyton Redmond and Jill Green were the keys to victory for the Panthers on the outside and combined well with McKinzey. The two asserted themselves in the final set to drive the seven-point swing. Redmond led the Panthers in kills with 14, while Green put together a solid effort on the service line in sets two and three.
Senior Jaycie Pluenneke also had a solid night in the middle. She combined well with McKinzey time after time to finish off a point and was disruptive on the defensive end as well with several blocks.
“Everyone stepped up and did their job tonight,” said Peterson. “You really can’t isolate one player.”
Liberty Hill supporters and their coaches hope the team takes this statement victory with them to the next round and continues to build momentum in their quest to get to the state tournament.
Liberty Hill will play Fredericksburg in the Regional Semifinals at the Blossom Athletic Center in San Antonio Friday evening, Nov. 14.