Lady Panthers will play for Regional title Saturday

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By Miguel A. Castro
Special to the Independent

SAN ANTONIO — Liberty Hill endured a wild rollercoaster ride of a match Friday to move one step closer to reaching the state tournament.

The Panthers defeated familiar foe Fredericksburg 27-25, 21-25, 25-15, 20-25, 15-8 in the Region IV-4A semifinals at the Blossom Athletic Center.

It was the fourth meeting between the two teams this season and second straight five-set match.

Liberty Hill (33-12) will face Sealy (33-6), which beat Boerne 3-1 in the other semifinal match Friday, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 15, for the regional title and a berth in the Final Four.

“We knew it was going to be another tough match,” said Jill Green, who finished with 18 digs and 3 aces. “We played so hard and definitely earned this one.”

They sure did.

With the match even at 2-2, and the decisive set tied at 3, the Panthers went on an 8-2 run to take a commanding 11-5 lead.

Peyton Redmond’s two kills inched Liberty Hill closer to the victory before two Fredericksburg errors sealed the deal.

“We knew we couldn’t fully stop them in the middle, but if we could slow them down we would have a chance,” Panthers coach Gretchen Peterson said.

Early on, though, it didn’t look that way.

Fredericksburg (39-11) jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead in Game 1 and led by as many as six points in the set.

But Liberty Hill slowly chipped away at the deficit, coming within two points six times on the backend of the game.

The effort paid off as the Panthers used a 4-0 run to tie and take the lead, 23-22, until a Taylor Kitchens kill knotted it up again.

The Battlin’ Billies held set point twice following the 23-23 tie, but Green and Jaycie Pluenneke prevented the loss with their kills.

A hitting error on Fredericksburg then gave Liberty Hill its first set point of the match, setting up Kelly McKinzey to close it out with her setter’s dump.

“We played great defense, but we struggled with our serve receive for a while,” Peterson said.

The second set was a back and forth affair until the Battlin’ Billies broke away from a 6-6 tie to pull ahead and never look back.

The Panthers came close to rallying once again but came up short as they fell 25-21.

With the match split at 1-1, Liberty Hill went on a 12-2 run in Game 3 to build a comfortable 10-point cushion it never relinquished.

But the Panthers couldn’t close it out in the fourth set, forcing a Game 5.

“Once we got down our serve receive, we were able to play more up-tempo and stuff and push the middle,” Peterson said.

Redmond had 16 kills in the match with McKinzey providing 39 assists. Pluenneke contributed 6 blocks.

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