Lady Panthers defeat St. Stephen’s in straight sets

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By Scott Akanewich
Sports Editor

After a rough start to the day at the Westwood Showcase at McNeil High School Thursday, the Lady Panthers bounced back with a pair of victories to close out the first day of the tournament.
Ashley Nelson and Kinsee Escamilla each had five kills, while Emma Becker led with nine assists, Ailie Hair had four blocks and Haley Kuhlmann served three aces in a 2-0 (25-14, 25-18) victory over St. Stephen’s in the third match of the afternoon. Nelson also had three digs in the contest.
Liberty Hill jumped out to an early lead in the first set against the Spartans, punctuated by a pair of double-team, back-to-back blocks by Hair and Becker, which set the defensive tone at the net and helped the Purple-and-Gold cruise to an easy set win.
The Lady Panthers continued their dominance in the second stanza, getting out to a 7-2 advantage, finished off by Kuhlmann’s third ace of the match. Ashleigh Dubbs, Escamilla, Emily Huppee and Maddi Rowley all added kills to help close out the match, with Nelson providing a pair of powerful blasts on consecutive points near the conclusion.
Earlier in the day, Liberty Hill lost its first match of the tournament to South San Antonio 2-1 (20-25, 25-13, 20-25), as Becker led with eight kills to go with six by Nelson. Becker (15) and Emma Parsons (12) combined for 27 assists, while Dubbs had four blocks and Kuhlmann added eight digs.
The middle match featured a 2-0 (25-12, 25-22) Panthers win over Brewer in which Nelson had eight kills, Parsons added 10 assists, Kuhlmann eight digs and Dubbs four blocks.
All in all, it was a successful day, albeit a lengthy one, said Liberty Hill head coach Gretchen Peterson.
“It was a long day and we started out making a lot of errors, but then cut down on them after the first match,” she said. “We want to be playing cleaner every time we’re out on the court. We’re very much a work in progress and we want to learn from our mistakes.”
According to Peterson, early-season tournaments like this one are a good way to season her squad before district play begins.
“These are basically fancy practices,” said Peterson. “The process is very important and today everybody contributed.”
Liberty Hill (3-2) finished second in its pool and will play three more matches on Friday against Vandegrift at 9 a.m., McNeil at noon and Glenn at 1 p.m., all at McNeil High School.

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