Lady Panthers sweep Salado, Taylor

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By LANCE CATCHINGS

The Liberty Hill varsity volleyball team (28-13, 10-0) dispatched yet another 19-4A district opponent in a three-game sweep on Tuesday.

Salado fell short by scores of 25-17, 25-16 and 25-19. Following the victory, the Lady Panthers sit at 10-0 in district play with two games remaining before postseason play begins. Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said the team is clicking at the right time.

“We definitely had some high points against Salado, and overall, I thought it was a solid game,” Peterson said. “Jenna (Lyons), Gabi (Sommerfield) and Brooklynn (Jones) were really in sync tonight, and that made for really good offensive attacks all over the court. Ella is out right now with a little bit of an injury, so it was good to see Allison Kleberg step up and grow tonight. We had some lulls, but the girls worked through those really well.”

Senior outside hitter Jenna Lyons registered another double-digit kill night to lead the team with 15. Gabi Sommerfield also had a solid night with eight kills, five aces and two blocks. Brooklynn Jones had 28 assists and Savannah Stanley led the defense with 12 digs. Although her team remains undefeated, Peterson said the team must work to get better.

“Even though we are 10-0, we don’t want to become complacent,” she said. “If we want to get to the State Tournament, we have to keep working and improving our level of play. Complacency cannot be something we accept. We know right out of the gate we will have tough competitors the entire road through the playoffs. We have to push ourselves and make sure we go to work each day and don’t settle. The key moving forward is recovering quickly and getting the most out of the practice days we get.”

Ella Shipper was held out of the game against Salado, but will return to the lineup this week. Peterson said depth and physical conditioning has played a large part in the team’s success.

“We have held up really well so far this season,” she said. “The girls are doing a great job working with our trainer, Mr. Donello, who does an awesome job with them. The only player we have right now that isn’t full-go is Ella, but it’s been nice to have the depth we have and win district matches. Overall, I feel comfortable that the girls are in the shape we need them to be in to have a strong finish to the season.”

Although they’ve cruised through district play with relative ease thus far, Peterson explained that her team will have to stay mentally sharp to reach its goal of a trip to State.

“As soon as our season ended last year, they were already ready for this season to start,” Peterson said. “We all felt like it was not the ending we wanted, and they have never stopped thinking about it. From a mental perspective, they understand being mentally tough, because they have been here before. It is still something we focus on, because we can’t afford to take mental breaks in practice or take a day off in a game. Once the next two district games are done, if we do not step up and play focused, we go home. We, as coaches, want to make sure they step on the court confident and as mentally prepared as we can get them.

“We have Llano Friday at home and the varsity will play at 5 p.m. Llano is a young team that is going through some growing pains and had a rough season in terms of injuries. They have everything to gain by coming in and playing us. We can expect them to play hard and scrappy on defense. This would be a big feather in their hat to come to Liberty Hill and get a win. We are still trying to get better every time we step on the court,” Peterson said.

The team continued its streak of dominating district play on Oct. 13 with a three-game sweep of the Taylor (13-26, 2-8). The Lady Panthers swept the Lady Ducks by scores of 25-10, 25-9 and 25-11.

Sommerfield had an exceptional performance all over the court, leading the team in kills with eight, tallying six blocks and knocking down six aces. Lyons continued to add to her season’s offensive total with eight kills, and she also picked up five digs on the defensive end. Jones had a solid performance from her setter position with 22 assists, and Stanley led the team in digs with six. Taylor Workman added five assists and Hayden Schilli was solid on defense with five digs.

The Lady Panthers will host Llano at 5 p.m. Friday and Lampasas on Tuesday, Oct. 24, before they begin their road through the playoffs.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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