Lady Panthers beat Lorena in straight sets, prepare to start district play Friday

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Savannah Stanley (#3) prepares to launch a serve during the Lady Panthers’ win over Lorena last Friday. The win gives the Panthers an 18-12 overall record on the season heading into district play. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

The Liberty Hill varsity volleyball team (18-12) came out focused and determined last Friday, Sept. 1, and swept Lorena (16-10) in three games. Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said the intensity level and sound defense led to the victory.

“We played pretty well, and it was a consistent match for us,” Peterson said. “We didn’t have any down moments and held our composure well. Our defense started out strong and we made offensive opportunities from great defensive play. Our early intensity allowed us to establish a rhythm between our setters and hitters. Our passing was better and our cohesiveness was really good to see.”

The Lady Panthers dominated from the first whistle, taking all three games quite handily (25-17, 25-11, 25-14).

“Every set brings a new opportunity for us, as well as the opponent,” Peterson said. “The girls did a good job of staying focused and rebuilding that momentum each game.”

The senior duo of Jenna Lyons and Gabi Sommerfield combined for 24 kills. Brooklynn Jones added 24 assists and seven digs for the Lady Panthers in the win.

“Jenna (Lyons) and Gabi (Sommerfield) were really in sync this game, and Brooklynn did a good job of finding them,” Peterson said. “Gabi got kills early and because of that, Lorena’s middle blocker had to stay with her. That left Jenna with some one-on-one opportunities, which she recognized and took advantage of. Those three did a really good job setting an early offensive tone. Brooklynn never comes off the court. I put a lot on her plate and I think she handles things really well. Early on this season she had a rough time defensively and some of that could have been fatigue. She is moving and reading our opponents well and getting us playable balls set. It really shows why she is such a versatile player for us.”

Peterson said things are starting to click for the team, and it could not have come at a better time.

“They really came out in practice and the match Friday with focus, and team morale was definitely up,” she said. “When they are in sync with each other you can see why they have set the expectations so high for themselves. Lorena is a good team we will probably see in the playoffs, because they are in our region. That was also a big motivating factor for them on Friday night.”

During last Friday’s game against Lorena, Liberty Hill also helped gather supplies for Hurricane Harvey victims in La Grange as the volleyball team took donations at the gate.

“We had a great showing and level of support for the community of La Grange,” Peterson said. “It is always great to see how quickly would-be opponents can put that aside and help each other. It is truly what is great about our community and high school sports. Our prayers go out to each and every student and family that was affected by the hurricane. We will continue to pray for them as they rebuild.”

Liberty Hill opens district play this Friday, Sept. 8, at Leander Glenn at 6 p.m. From here on out, each of the Lady Panthers’ games will determine seeding and playoff position.

“We open district against Leander Glenn, which we consider the second phase of our season,” Peterson said. “Records go out the window, and it’s all about which team will step up and win the next matches. These games have a heightened intensity. Leander Glenn is a third-year program, so this is the first year for them to have juniors. They have a new coach who has done a really good job, and the girls are improving. We have to be ready each match. We have to play our best, meet the intensity of our opponent and put ourselves in a good situation for the playoffs. We are to the time where if we don’t play well, we go home. We take one game at a time in district, and they need to prepare us for our playoff run.”

Next Tuesday, Sept. 12, the Lady Panthers will continue district play against their rival Burnet Bulldogs at 6 p.m. at Liberty Hill High School.

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