Lady Panthers remain undefeated in playoffs, win Regional Quarterfinal over La Grange in straight sets

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Liberty Hill’s Brooklynn Jones (#10) sets up teammate Ella Shipper (#5) for the kill during their Regional Quarterfinal victory over La Grange Tuesday. Jones finished with 39 assists, and Shipper finished with an ace and a block. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

CEDAR CREEK — The Liberty Hill volleyball team is headed to the Regional Semifinals for the second year in a row. The Lady Panthers advanced from the Regional Quarterfinal round by sweeping La Grange in three straight sets by scores of 25-15, 25-16, and 25-16 at Cedar Creek High School on Tuesday.

Liberty Hill Head Coach Gretchen Peterson, who often calls for improvement on the Lady Panthers’ serve and receive, was impressed with how they attacked a solid La Grange defense.

“I thought we played really well tonight,” Peterson said. “La Grange has a very strong defense, and we knew that going in. They made a lot of great defensive plays tonight, and there were a lot of long rallies back and forth. Our serve/receive and passing was pretty consistent, and it really gave Brooklynn (Jones) a lot of options. She did a great job finding our hitters tonight. We were really balanced across the court, and that was the difference in the game.”

Peterson said the experienced, senior-led Liberty Hill team is using the seniors’ motivation from last year’s State Tournament loss to fuel their current playoff run.

“All five of them were on our run last year, and that has been a huge motivating factor for every girl,” Peterson said of her seniors. “The seniors realize that they have another shot to do this again, and do it the way they want to finish it. There is a definite passion behind the way they practice and approach every game. There is also a lot of motivation and determination. They are very clear on what they want to accomplish, and it is contagious. They have bought in, and their teammates have bought in, as well. They have all stepped up in different ways.”

Jenna Lyons led the team, offensively, with 14 kills and four aces, Gabi Sommerfield added eight kills and five blocks with a strong defensive effort, Brooklynn Jones tallied 34 assists on the night, Savannah Stanley led the defensive effort with 22 digs, and Ella Shipper added 13 of her own digs on the night.

Peterson knows her team is blessed with athleticism and depth, but also acknowledged her team’s hard work to maximize those qualities.

“We are really blessed, and we have a ton of depth,” she said. “We have a very balanced team. We have really strong defense, blocking, and a great setter to move the ball around. We also have hitters that can put the ball away from wherever they are on the court. We still have to work hard and capitalize on the blessings that we have. We do not want to rest on our athleticism, and they come in and work hard every day. We don’t win the game just because we step on the court. We have a special group of girls here that work well together.”

The Lady Panthers will face Huffman Hargrave in the Regional Semifinal. Game time is set for 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, at Bryan High School.

Liberty Hill ended Hargrave’s season last year in the Regional Final, so Peterson said the team will need to be at its best on Friday night in order to beat an opponent that will likely come into the matchup with a chip on its shoulder.

“Last year, we played them at the Regional Tournament to go to State,” Peterson said. “They were young last year, but they are back, and we’re one game away from going to the State Tournament. We understand what that feels like, and they are a very motivated team. We have a lot of tough teams we have to match up with, and we have to attack it.”

On Nov. 2, the Lady Panthers advanced to the Regional Quarterfinals for the second year in a row by sweeping China Spring in straight sets by scores of 25-18, 25-12, and 25-22.

Lyons led the team in kills on the night with 13, and Claire Kubesh added 10 more on the offensive end. Shipper, Lyons, Jones, and Sommerfield each had an ace in the win. Ashley Nelson, Shipper and Sommerfield each had a block for the defense, as well. Jones gathered 39 assists throughout the hard fought contest, while Stanley led the team in digs with 13 and Lyons chipped in 11.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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