Lady Panthers sweep their way to State

LHHS volleyball is on the way to State after defeating Sealy on Saturday, Nov. 15, in San Antonio. (Miguel Castro Photo)

LHHS volleyball is on the way to State after defeating Sealy on Saturday, Nov. 15, in San Antonio. (Miguel Castro Photo)

By Miguel A. Castro

SAN ANTONIO — Liberty Hill is going to the state volleyball tournament, and if Saturday’s performance is any indication, the Panthers may just return home as the Lone Star State’s Class 4A champion.

Liberty Hill put on a dominating performance in the Region IV-4A final at the Blossom Athletic Center, easily sweeping Sealy 25-7, 25-19, 25-19 to claim a spot in the Final Four.

The Panthers (34-12) will play Argyle in the state semifinals at 3 p.m. next Friday in Garland.

“This is such a huge win for us,” senior Peyton Redmond said. “We already made history last night by reaching the regional final, but it’s even better now that we get to extend our season.”

Redmond, who finished with 15 kills and 10 digs, slammed down two straight kills to open the match to contribute to an early 5-0 advantage.

The Panthers maintained their lead with a 6-0 run before scoring 12 unanswered points to capture Game 1, 25-7.

Redmond and Jill Green scored half of Liberty Hill’s 12 points during the rally off a combined four kills and Green’s back-to-back aces that closed out the first set.

Sealy (33-7) came out swinging though in second set, which saw ties at 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 16 and 17. But the duo of Redmond and Jaycie Pluenneke led the Panthers on an 8-2 run to break away from the 17-17 tie. Redmond smashed down two kills and Pluenneke added another to go along with two big blocks to give Liberty Hill set point. An error on the Tigers then gave the Panthers a 2-0 advantage in the match.

“Sealy got more settled and attacked the ball really well in Game 2,” Liberty Hill coach Gretchen Peterson said. “We had to get our composure back, and we got a couple of key blocks to take their momentum away.”

The Panthers didn’t let up in the final set, relying on their well-timed hitting, tight blocking, and unforgiving back row defense to remain in control.

Pluenneke ended the match with five blocks while Green served three aces. Kelly McKinzey, who provided 31 assists, said the Panthers will enjoy this one for now but know they still have two more matches to win to achieve their ultimate goal. In order to do that, they’ll just have to continue doing what’s worked best for them so far.

“We just have to take it one game at a time,” McKinzey said. “We know if we do that, we will get there. We’ve done that all the way here, and now we’re regionals champs.”