Lady Panthers take down Fredericksburg, drop tough road match to Lorena

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill volleyball team showed how much it has grown this season with a 3-1 victory over Fredericksburg Tuesday.

The Lady Panthers came out on fire against a quality opponent and Fredericksburg looked overmatched as Liberty Hill swept games one and two 25-17, 25-18. Liberty Hill battled back and forth to a 19-19 tie in game three as they tried to complete the sweep, but Fredericksburg held on for the 25-22 win. The Lady Panthers rallied in game four and quickly built a 15-5 lead in route to a 25-20 win.

Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said her team is starting to move in the right direction.

“I felt like this was one of our more complete matches,” Peterson said. “We trusted our decisions and we trusted one another. We adjusted from play to play and they played a bit more relaxed. There was a calmness on the court that we had not seen as much. There was touches of that against Lorena, but right now we are starting to click, and it could not have happened at a better time.”

The fuel added to the fire is that Fredericksburg is in Liberty Hill’s region and they are quite likely an opponent they will face down the road in the playoffs.

Ashley Nelson was all over the court in the win and Ella Shipper is working back into the lineup after being sidelined with an injury.

“Fredericksburg is a very well coached program and they have a lot of height,” she said.

“There is a likeliness we will see them in the playoffs down the road. They have a strong middle hitter and they are typically strong on the outside. Ashley is one of those players that has been under the radar and this year she has stepped up and played a much larger role. Tonight, she showed her capabilities to change a game.”

The Liberty Hill junior varsity team defeated Fredericksburg in two games 25-9 and 25-12. The Lady Panther freshman team also swept Fredericksburg in two games 25-12 and 25-14.

On Aug. 31 in Lorena, the Lady Panthers lost in three games 25-15, 25-21 and 25-16. Lorena is one of the tougher opponents on the pre-district schedule Peterson put together to test her team before district play starts.

“Last year when we played Lorena they were very young and that is kind of how we are this year,” she said.

“This year, they had everyone back and all their players healthy. They have a good outside hitter and their defense is strong. We knew going in it was going to be a hard-fought match. We lost in three sets, but there was a lot of good volleyball being played. We had some long rallies and the girls played more in control. The setters took leadership of the court and were ran plays and played more confident. We made some good plays and they just made some great defensive plays.”

Although her team lost in straight sets, she believes there are good things on the horizon for the group.

“A loss is a loss and that is the truth of it,” she said.

“We are starting to click a little bit better and things are starting to connect a little bit more. This was Ella’s (Shipper) first game back and she only played back row. Her leadership on the court gave some comfort to players like Emily Huppee and Ashley Nelson who have played with her for several years. There was a calmness on the court that we had not seen yet this season while she was out there.”

Peterson is also excited to see some of her younger players stepping into leadership roles.

“Kindsee Escamilla has come in and really been a vocal leader and started to fill that role more for us,” she said.

“Physically she is doing a really good job for us and has been really aggressive for us on the front row. Lily Wilkins is a sophomore that is new to Liberty Hill, but has done a really great job in the middle filling a role that we needed to be filled. She is also doing a phenomenal job on back row and serving. Those are two of our younger players that are doing a great job for us.”

The Lady Panthers host Robinson Friday at 4:30 p.m. and travel to China Spring Sept. 11. They close out pre-district play at home Sept. 14 when they host Cedar Park.

“Robinson was a third-round playoff team last year,” Peterson said.

“We play China Spring the following Tuesday who we faced in the playoffs last year. We finish up our preseason the following Friday with Cedar Park. We are playing some storied programs that will be challenging and I think that is what we need going into district play.”

There is still some fine tuning to be done before the first district game against Burnet and Peterson said it is all things her team can control.

“The big thing for us will be minimizing mental errors,” she said.

“We have to control what we can control and give ourselves a chance to win points. Serve/receive must be more consistent so we can give our setters time to get there and decide. Our hitters need to be available to make a play on the ball every time. In close games that we have lost we had mental errors and those are the things we must minimize. That will be a big indicator for us over the next two weeks, district and playoffs. Can we play smart and consistent and maximize opportunities?”

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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