Lady Panthers go undefeated en route to District Championship
By LANCE CATCHINGS
The Liberty Hill varsity volleyball team (30-13, 12-0) wrapped up a perfect 19-4A District Championship season with a three-game sweep of Lampasas Tuesday. The Lady Panthers dispatched the Lady Badgers by scores of 25-10, 25-8 and 25-5 on Senior Night.
“I am really excited for the seniors that they got to close this chapter,” said Head Coach Gretchen Peterson. “This is the third District Championship in a row for some of them, and that’s cool for any kid to have on their résumé. It is also cool to know that this is one chapter and now we are moving on to the next phase, and I thought everybody contributed in ways that they could.”
Jenna Lyons led the team in kills with 10, and Gabi Sommerfield added six kills. Sommerfield picked up five aces and Lyons added three while both showed some aggressive serving. Claire Kubesh had two blocks in the win, Brooklynn Jones added 20 assists and Savannah Stanley had eight digs. Peterson said that time flew by with this senior group, but they still have goals to reach.
“Some of this group has been on varsity since they were sophomores, and most of them have been in the program since the seventh grade,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like it should be this time already for them, because they have been here so long. It will really sink in next year when these faces are gone, because they have been a part of the program in one capacity or another for the past six years. It just doesn’t feel like six years has gone by. They are a great group of people, and on top of that, great volleyball players. They have been a real blessing to coach and be around.”
In a rematch of last season’s Bi-District game, Liberty Hill will take on district 20-4A opponent Navasota in the first round of the playoffs. Peterson said Navasota is a scrappy team that can hang tough.
“We played them in this same round last year, and at the time they seemed really young to us,” Peterson said. “They were athletic, but struggled with consistency. They are going to be better for that this year and come from a traditionally strong district. Even though their record may not be that great, it is still a district where they have played a lot of good volleyball. They are not a team we can take lightly, and you can’t take any team lightly in the playoffs. We have to take care of business, no matter who is on the other side of the net.”
Savannah Stanley, one of the team’s senior leaders, was excited about being crowned 19-4A District Champions, but said the Panthers still have their minds focused on the ultimate goal.
“I know that we have high expectations for ourselves because of our past in State last year.” Stanley said. “This year, I feel like we are only learning from what we did last year. We have more experience and know what it’s like and know what it takes to be where we want to be.”
Lyons, another one of Liberty Hill’s senior leaders, had a similar take, explaining that last year’s unfinished business should serve as motivation.
“Last year we kind of left unfinished, because we knew we could have played better and been more mentally focused,” she said. “This year we have taken time out of our pre-game to make sure that we take time to mentally focus and prepare ourselves for every game. It doesn’t matter who our opponent is. We have to play our game.”
The Lady Panthers swept Llano Friday, Oct. 20 in three games by scores of 25-10, 25-16 and 25-10 to move their district record to 11-0. Lyons and Sommerfield each had seven kills to leads the team in the win. Jones had 20 assists and added seven digs.
Sophomore Allison Van Klaveren said she was proud of how her team played in the win over Llano.
“We definitely came out strong even though we let up a little in the second set,” Van Klaveren said. “So far we have only lost one set in district and that was to a rival. Heading into playoffs undefeated is a big momentum booster for us. We know we can do it and go strong. We know what our expectations are and we know we can meet them. We want to keep the motivation up and the seniors definitely keep us motivated. We need a little more consistency but the intensity is definitely there. Even when we have an off day we still push through because we have that team bond.”
The Lady Panthers’ first playoff game of the year is set for Monday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. at Giddings High School, where they’ll take on Navasota in the Bi-District Championship.