Lady Panthers stretch streak to 14 matches

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By Scott Akanewich
Sports Editor
All season long, the Lady Panthers of Liberty Hill have played their best volleyball when Emma Becker is at her personal best and Friday was no exception as the Purple-and-Gold easily outpointed visiting Taylor by a score of 3-0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-11), as the sophomore setter smashed 10 kills to go along with 10 assists.
“I think I came out tonight with good energy and had good connections with my teammates,” said Becker. “For us as a team, things are going really good right now.”
The victory extended the Lady Panthers’ current win streak to 14 matches, as they haven’t lost since the Smithson Valley tournament all the way back on Aug. 24.
According to Liberty Hill head coach Gretchen Peterson, all of these victories are perfectly fine, as long as they’re kept in the proper perspective.
“You always want to celebrate winning,” said Peterson. “So, we take away all the good things we do in a match like this, but also make sure we get better every time we step on the court.”
Lilli Wilkins began the proceedings with a kill on the first point of the match, followed by a Becker kill and a block from Kindsee Escamilla to go with an ace by Haley Kuhlmann to quickly put the home side in control.
Liberty Hill stretched its lead to as much as 18-8 in the opening set, including an ace by Wilkins and a block and a kill from Ailie Hair before Escamilla pounded a pair of kills, followed by aces from Becker, Emily Huppee and Wilkins to close out the set.
At the outset of the second stanza, senior Lauren LaDuque came off the bench hotter than a firecracker on the Fourth-of-July, serving a pair of aces immediately upon her arrival before Wilkins continued her dominant play in the middle with a kill and an ace of her own.
The Lady Panthers’ advantage increased to as many as 10 points on their way to another set victory, which included back-to-back aces from sophomore Emma Parsons and five more kills for Becker.
Taylor won the first point of the third set, but it was the only occasion during the entire match when the Lady Ducks held a lead.
Wilkins quickly evened the score, followed by additional kills from Huppee and Escamilla before a sequence began which saw Becker and senior Ashley Nelson trade off hammering kills over the course of four consecutive points for a 10-4 lead.
The match was punctuated by a defensive display put on at the net by Hair, who blocked four shots in the third, including a double-team effort with Escamilla to stuff a Taylor scoring chance late in the set before Ashleigh Dubbs sealed the deal with a kill and a match victory.
Escamilla collected seven kills, while Parsons led the Lady Panthers with 16 assists. Becker and LaDuque each had four digs and Hair had six blocks to go with three each by Nelson and Escamilla. Wilkins, LaDuque and Parsons all had two aces each.
However, despite a resounding victory, Peterson was still looking for ways to improve her club, she said.
“We still need to get better at some things,” said Peterson. “We didn’t play to a speed or tempo we would like to be at – we need to play a little faster. We missed some serves, but were accurate for the most part and our passing was hit-and-miss, but whenever we needed somebody to step up, they did.”
Liberty Hill (32-13, 5-0) will next host Burnet on Oct. 15 at 6 p.m.

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