Lady Panthers drop a tight home opener to Hyde Park


By Lance Catchings

The Lady Panther volleyball team hosted Hyde Park in their home opener Tuesday night, but ultimately fell to the Austin team in five sets 23-25, 25-19, 27-25, 25-19 and 15-12.

Liberty Hill’s season record moved to 4-7 with the loss, but it took Hyde Park all they had to get the win. Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said her young team will have to show more intensity early in matches to set the tone.

“I think we were a little flat coming out and I thought we would be more excited with it being the first home game,” Peterson said.

“I feel like that showed in the game one loss because we played lackadaisical. The girls made some adjustments and it got better as things started to click. That is something we will have to work on. We will need to come out of the gate a little bit stronger than we did tonight.”

Although Liberty Hill had some miscues in game one, they rallied in games two and three. The Lady Panthers faced deficits of seven and five points to come back and win. Offensively, Liberty Hill showed sparks of greatness, but Peterson said it must be more consistent.

“Hyde Park was extremely scrappy tonight and their defense did not let anything hit the floor,” she said. “Their setter made good decisions with bad passes and kept the ball in play.

“We struggled to get things going offensively. We are struggling a bit with our identity right now and that shows. We need everyone to believe that they are the go-to player and that’s what will make our team great. We must learn from these situations and that is how we will get better. There is a ton of potential on this team we just must get out of our own way. We are inexperienced, but we will continue to fight. Five game matches are a great mental exercise. There are some good things we saw tonight and there are things we must work on and we’ll keep rolling,” she said.

Liberty Hill started the 2018 season with a flurry of games. After opening the season with tough losses against Clemens and Canyon Lake, they competed in the Round Rock Westwood tournament last weekend.

“I felt like we hung with Clemens and lost in three sets,” she said. “That was promising to see how we responded to a faster paced offense. We played Canyon Lake and we lost to them in five sets. Unfortunately, Kindsee Escamilla and Ella Shipper suffered injuries and were unable to play. That is two components of leadership on the court that we no longer had. I was impressed with how our kids stepped up and stretched it out to five sets against Canyon Lake.”

With two key players sidelined, Peterson has had to shuffle her lineup and rely on some of her younger, less experienced players to step up. She believes this will only help the team in the long run.

“You never want starters out, but it is phenomenal for our younger girls because they are getting way more swings than I had originally penciled in terms of game time,” she said.

“Some of our younger girls are having to grow up a little faster than we thought they would. In hindsight, this may be one of the best things that could happen for our young kids.”

At the Westwood tournament the Lady Panthers went 4-4, but the overall record does concern Peterson. She is more focused on her players gelling and working together as they move on the court.

“We are making some inconsistent plays so we are a little error prone right now, but there is a lot of fight in this team,” she said.

We are making the right decisions. We just need to fine tune it a little bit. At one point we had a freshman, three sophomores and two juniors on the court. For them to not freak-out when they are down 21-7 and make a run makes me proud of them. That was the theme of the Westwood tournament for us. We were down and came back in the games we won, or we were down and made late runs in the games we lost. All in all, we are moving in the right direction.”

This weekend, the team will compete at the Bastrop ISD Tournament where they will see a host of teams, some familiar and some new.

“We will see some larger schools at the Bastrop Tournament,” Peterson said. “We will also see some potentially playoff opponents now that we are in Region IV. We know the caliber of programs those schools represent. It will be a great tournament for scouting purposes this weekend. It will be nice to see how we measure up and how far we must go. I am really pleased with how hard they are working and the focus they have on improving.”

The Lady Panthers have their next home game Tuesday, Aug. 21, when they host Bastrop. Varsity will play at 6 p.m. and sub-varsity teams will play at 5 p.m.