Lady Panthers sweep China Spring in straight sets


By Scott Akanewich
Sports Editor
The Cougars of China Spring paid a visit to the Purple Palace Tuesday and left with a loss at the hands of the Lady Panthers by a score of 3-0 (25-7, 25-13, 25-20).
Senior outside hitter Ashley Nelson led Liberty Hill with eight kills, while sophomore setter Emma Becker provided five aces and 11 assists, both team-leading totals.
Nelson began the match with a thunderous kill to start the first set, which was quickly followed by another from middle blocker Ailie Hair, who moments later teamed up with Becker to repel the China Spring attack with a big block at the net.
A 5-0 Lady Panthers run ensued and the home side quickly built a solid lead thanks in part to Emma Parsons and Kindsee Escamilla aces sandwiched around kills by Becker, Hair and Nelson.
The Lady Panthers were never threatened and went on to close out the opening stanza, 25-7.
Maddi Rowley came off the bench to start the second set with a pair of aces, followed by a pair of kills for Lilli Wilkins and the Lady Panthers were once again on the prowl.
Hair and Escamilla teamed up for a block, with Emily Huppee providing a kill on the ensuing point on their way to a 17-8 advantage.
Becker then bombed three aces in four points to help seal the deal in the second set, 25-13.
In the third, the Cougars came out more determined and made Liberty Hill work for every point, actually taking a lead as late as 17-16, but back-to-back hammer blows off the fist of Huppee and two more Becker aces finished off the visitors, 25-20.
Hair and Escamilla each added five kills for the Lady Panthers on the evening, while Parsons added three aces and nine assists. Ashleigh Dubbs, Huppee and Wilkins each blocked a shot with Haley Kuhlmann and senior Lauren LaDuque recording five and two digs, respectively.
Liberty Hill head coach Gretchen Peterson was pleased at how her club played throughout the match.
“I thought the girls played a really complete match in all three sets,” she said. “We did a really good job of coming back from our mistakes.”
As for the brief comeback by the Cougars in the third set, Peterson put it down to a lapse in concentration by her club.
“We made some passing and hitting errors and our energy dropped a bit and we let them get back into the match,” she said. “Volleyball is a game of momentum and when you lose it, sometimes it’s hard to get it back.”
Becker was masterful on the back line during her serving rotations, something Peterson attributed to her ability to change up the speed of her ball.
“Emma can jump-serve and get a lot of topspin on the ball or she can just serve to certain spot or a certain player on the other team,” she said. “She has a variety of serves.”
Peterson also praised Escamilla and Kuhlmann for their efforts on the evening.
“Kindsee had a really strong passing game and Haley is back in a good rhythm again,” she said. “Our setters and hitters did a good job connecting.”
Hair’s dominant defensive play at the net was also highlighted as she and the outside hitters time and again formed a wall of resistance.
“We have the potential to be a really good blocking team,” said Peterson. “As we get further along in the season, we’re going to have to be able to get points from our defense.”
Liberty Hill (23-13) will next host Schulenburg on Sept. 14 at 11 a.m., followed by a home match against Stephenville on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m.