By LANCE CATCHINGS
The Lady Panther volleyball team improved its overall record to 20-13 and its 19-4A district record to 2-0 by defeating the rival Burnet Bulldogs in four sets on Tuesday, September 12.
Liberty Hill Head Coach Gretchen Peterson was happy about the win, but explained that there were a few mental errors that surfaced during the game that will be addressed over the upcoming bye week.
“It’s a huge rivalry game for us, and Burnet did not disappoint,” Peterson said. “They played very well defensively and gave our hitters trouble with blocks, and also keeping balls in play. Their hitters did a good job of placing the ball, as well. I want to commend our girls, because they found a way to win despite not playing well. We have a bye week this Friday, and that is really good timing for us to refocus and realize we will not win just because we step on the court.”
Jenna Lyons led the team with 11 kills while Brooklynn Jones chipped in 30 assists. Savannah Stanley picked up 17 digs on the defensive side.
Liberty Hill had several five- to eight-point runs throughout the four sets, but Burnet refused to go away. The Lady Bulldogs were able to steal game two and gain some momentum in the process, although Liberty Hill ultimately defeated Burnet in four sets by scores of 25-19, 23-25, 25-17 and 25-20.
“We let the moment slip away from us at the end of game one,” Peterson said. “When you do that, it is so hard to get it back. In games three and four, they had to fight back and get that, and I’m proud they did. They found a way to win while not playing their best. Burnet missed some serves in game four, and they did a good job of taking advantage of those errors. When those things happen that’s great, but we can’t count on those type of things all the time.
Peterson said the team will use the bye week to refocus. They are back in action against Taylor next Tuesday, September 19, which starts a string of four straight road games for the Lady Panthers. They return to their home gym on October 3 to start the second round of district play against Leander Glenn.
“Being 2-0 headed into the bye week is great for us,” Peterson said. “I think we need to step back and focus on us for a little bit. We will really utilize the bye week and turn some things around that we need to turn around. If we work hard and give 100 percent, the goals we’ve set for ourselves, we will accomplish.”
Last Friday, September 8, the varsity volleyball team opened Region III District 19-4A play with a three-game sweep of Leander Glenn. Peterson said she was pleased with the win, but admitted that her team still has a lot of work to do.
“It’s always good to start district play with a win, but we definitely could have done some things better,” she said. “Their defense was really phenomenal, so we had some really long rallies. We need to focus on putting the ball away sooner. On the flip side, we did not let their aggressive defense rattle us, and we did not panic. They are a much-improved team and have really bought into the program. It was an exciting win, but we definitely have to get our defense back in rhythm. We needed to mimic their tenaciousness and aggressiveness on defense. We also missed 11 serves, which was a big issue, as well. In three sets, missing 11 serves is unacceptable. We definitely have to improve our mental focus behind the service line.”
Peterson said the Lady Panthers came into the game with a high level of intensity, and they will need to bring that to every district match.
“The intensity level for the girls was up, which was good,” she said. “We still need to work on being consistent with that and bringing it every single time. Glenn had a great student section, and it was a loud gym. We definitely started off strong with the amount of intensity we had.
Senior Jenna Lyons led the team in kills with 14 and Emily Huppee was second with nine. Savannah Stanley and Brooklynn Jones each had 14 digs on the defensive end.
“Our defensive effort was there against Glenn,” Peterson said. “We had a lot of hustle plays and a few communication errors. We have to start getting more touches on the block. Right now, we are relying a lot on our back row to dig everything up, but we have to help out and keep them fresh. We need to get our timing down and get touches at the net to give our defense time to get set. We will get back to work on Monday and fine tune some things.”