Lady Panthers clinch District with win over Burnet

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The 2015 District 25-4A volleyball champions include, back row from left, Carson Yarborough, Kingsley Erps, Hailey Barrows, Kelsey Hamrick, Allee Nix, Peyton Phifer and Ella Shipper. Front row are Carley Maples, Allie Child, Savannah Stanle, Brooklynn Jones and Bethany McLeod. The Lady Panthers are coached by Gretchen Peterson, Kristen Brewer and Jamie Junkin. (Alex Rubio Photo)

The 2015 District 25-4A volleyball champions include, back row from left, Carson Yarborough, Kingsley Erps, Hailey Barrows, Kelsey Hamrick, Allee Nix, Peyton Phifer and Ella Shipper. Front row are Carley Maples, Allie Child, Savannah Stanle, Brooklynn Jones and Bethany McLeod. The Lady Panthers are coached by Gretchen Peterson, Kristen Brewer and Jamie Junkin. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By Lauren Jette

The Lady Panthers clinched a district championship with a 25-19, 25-21, 18-25 and 25-13 win over district rival Burnet Tuesday night.

“We’re going to enjoy this win tonight, the girls deserve it,” said head coach Gretchen Peterson.

“We’re going to enjoy and then go back to work tomorrow and we’re going to get ready for playoffs. It’s the third part of our season now. We get to enjoy all that and I’m happy for this because there are so many young kids that have never had that, so it’s exciting and scary at the same time.”

Earlier Tuesday, a bomb threat targeted Burnet High School, forcing students to move to the nearby junior high campus, before classes were eventually cancelled for the rest of the day. The City of Burnet Police Department was still conducting sweeps of all Burnet CISD campuses into the evening Tuesday, but nothing was found.

The ordeal appeared to have no effect on the performance of the visiting Lady Panthers.

Liberty Hill got off to a strong start against the Lady Dawgs, building an 11-6 lead in the first set, forcing Burnet to call a timeout. The Lady Dawgs came out of the break and fought back to tie the set at 13 points each, before the Lady Panthers took back control and built a 22-16 lead. Three straight mistakes from Liberty Hill let Burnet back in, but the Lady Panthers shut the Lady Dawgs down to claim the set.

After a slow start in the second set, the Lady Panthers clawed back to tie the set at 9 points each. The next few points went back and forth before Liberty Hill worked its way out to an 18-12 lead. A Hailey Barrows block back across the net was bobbled by Burnet players before hitting the ground and giving the Lady Panthers a two-set lead.

The Lady Dawgs wouldn’t go down without a fight, climbing back from a 10-6 hole to tie the third set at 10 points, and then build on a lead. The Lady Panthers couldn’t find an answer to Burnet’s offense and dropped the set.

“I felt like the third set, we kind of got a little comfortable so we dug ourselves a hole and then we got a little tight,” Peterson said. “Then we started to overthink and started to play just too tight. We just have to trust what we need to do. We need to play our type of game and not try to kill it with every ball.

“We struggled tonight. Hitting-wise, we never really got it going. I thought passing-wise, we kept a lot of things in play and gave ourselves opportunities.”

In the fourth set, the Lady Panthers shut the door on the Lady Dawgs early, jumping out to a 7-1 lead before Burnet took a timeout. Liberty Hill dominated the rest of the set to close out the match and claim the district championship.

“Hats off to Burnet, they played a really great match, a complete turnaround from the first time we played them,” Peterson said. “We didn’t play our best game ever, but it doesn’t really matter at this point, right? They did what they needed to to get this win and I’m happy for them.

“We’re probably the only people that thought we’d be in this situation if you talked to us in the middle of August. People were like, I don’t know. It’s just cool for them because they never gave up on that belief and that’s really, really awesome. I’m really proud of them for that,” Peterson said.

On Oct. 23, the Lady Panthers defeated Lampasas, 25-12, 25-13, 25-14. Liberty Hill finishes district with an 8-1 record, with one loss at Salado on Oct. 2.

The Lady Panthers will face the fourth finisher from district 26-4A, Wimberley, in a bi-district matchup on Tuesday at Tony Burger Center in Austin. The game is slated to start at 7:30 p.m.

“They are a great team, they have a great tradition there, so we have to be ready,” Peterson said of the match with the Lady Texans.

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