Lady Panthers claim 5-set thriller

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Liberty Hill Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson (center) rallies her team before the fifth and deciding set of a match against Round Rock McNeil Tuesday night. The Lady Panthers won the set, 17-15. (Alex Rubio Photo)

Liberty Hill Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson (center) rallies her team before the fifth and deciding set of a match against Round Rock McNeil Tuesday night. The Lady Panthers won the set, 17-15. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Lauren Jette

The Lady Panthers volleyball team was given its first major test of the season Tuesday night against the visiting Round Rock McNeil Lady Mavericks, but were able to pull out the five-set win, 25-18, 25-22, 19-25, 19-25 and 17-15.

“It was exciting. I’m so proud of them,” said head coach Gretchen Peterson.

“We needed that. Emotionally, it was a big thing for us because we’re so young and so to be able to step up and pull through in a tight game like that was a big push for our girls. That was huge and so I’m really proud of them. They fought through, they played with some intensity and kind of saw that little spark that they needed. It was a great finish. I’m really proud of them.”

In the first set, the Lady Mavericks stayed close with Liberty Hill before the Lady Panthers broke a 12-12 tie with a kill from senior Allee Nix, and took the next four points to build a lead. The Lady Mavericks tied the set at 17 points, but the Lady Panthers won eight of the next nine points to claim the set.

The second set was closer, with both teams tying the score up seven times before the Lady Panthers were able to close out the set.

McNeil wouldn’t go down without a fight, claiming the next two sets while the Lady Panthers couldn’t get enough offense going to stave off the comeback.

“I think mentally, they are very tired,” Peterson said. “They’ve had a lot thrown at them over the past three and a half weeks, they’ve played a ton of volleyball, (plus it’s the) first day of school, so that’s always rough, so I think mentally, they’re young, so to be in those pressure situations and having to bounce back when they’re struggling, it does wear on them.

“But physically, they are in great shape. I don’t worry about that. They are hard-working girls, so they put themselves in positions to do well. The mental aspect we just have to get up to speed.”

In the deciding fifth set, the Lady Panthers got down in the score early, 2-6, but were able to claw their way back and tie the set at eight points each. The Lady Mavericks fought back to tie the set at 11 and then again at 15 points each. Needing to string together two consecutive points to claim the victory, the Lady Panthers came up big, with Nix slamming a kill for match point.

“Even though we would like to win it in three, and we were not happy about putting ourselves in that situation, it does show a lot about their character and their fight to keep pushing and stay positive and come back and win it in five sets,” Peterson said.

Before the Lady Panthers took the court for the fifth set, Peterson said she told her team to stay composed.

“There’s no reason to freak out or spaz out, there’s no reason for that,” Peterson told the team.

“They just need to go out there and play the way they need to play and that it was time for us to step up. I said if you were to walk in the gym, it would look like we were getting beat 12 to 0. There was just not a fire there or a push and they responded very well. They came out and did have that fire and spark that we needed.”

The Lady Panthers will gain more match experience in a Leander tournament Thursday through Saturday before hosting Copperas Cove Sept. 1.

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