By Lance Catchings
GARLAND-The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers (36-14) ended their 2017 season with a state semifinal loss to the Needville Lady Blue Jays (40-6) Friday, Nov. 17 at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, TX.
Liberty Hill fell in four hard fought matches to Needville by scores of 25-18, 15-25, 12-25, and 12-25. There was no shortage of support for the Lady Panthers as the team performed in front of a packed house of Liberty Hill fans that made the 200 plus mile trip to support their team Friday morning.
The ladies came out on fire in game one and quickly built an 8-2 lead behind the serving of senior setter Brooklynn Jones. Needville battled back and cut the lead to four ,18-14, late in the match but that is as close as they came. The Lady Panthers used a fast paced offense to find gaps and Needville ultimately dropped game one, 25-18.
In game two the Lady Panthers faced their first deficit of the 2017 playoffs when they fell behind 11-6 early in the match. Liberty Hill fought back hard behind the serving of senior Libero Savannah Stanley to cut the lead to one point, 11-10, but that is as close as they would come. Needville went on a five point run to end the game with a 25-15 victory.
Game three featured multiple lead changes early and back and forth hand battles at the net by middle blocker Gabi Sommerfield and Needville’s 6’3’’ middle, Sydney Sacra. Sommerfield and company gave Sacra all she could handle early as they fought hard defensively. Down by one point, 11-10, Needville capitalized and pushed the lead to 17-12 and the Lady Panthers were unable to recover. Needville ended the game on a nine point run as the Lady Panthers fell 25-12.
Facing elimination in game four Liberty Hill fought valiantly as the entire Panther crowd stood for the duration of the match. Down 13-10 the offensive attack was slowed and the defense was unable to keep pace, as Needville took a 25-12 win and advanced to the state final against Argyle.
Senior Jenna Lyons led the team in kills with 13 and Sommerfield was second with six. Jones tallied 25 assists and 17 digs in the loss. Stanley led the team with 18 digs.
Despite the loss the Lady Panthers had a phenomenal 2017 campaign. The team went a perfect 12-0 in district play and were crowned district 19-4A champions. They entered the playoffs and swept every team they faced in route to being crowned region III 4A champions.