LHHS defeats Lampasas on Pink Out night, sweeps Salado

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill varsity volleyball team continued trucking through district opponents as they swept Salado on the road Tuesday night and ran past Lampasas last Friday at home. The Lady Panthers improved to 27-15 (8-0) on the season with the two victories.

Liberty Hill defeated Salado in three games 25-15, 25-15 and 25-13 for the clean sweep. Emily Huppee had six kills in the win and three blocks. Lili Wilkins was second on the team in kills with six and had four aces. Ashley Nelson tallied 12 digs and four aces, as well. Emma Parsons led the team in assists with 12 and McKenzie Wukasch led the defense with 13 digs.

Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said her team’s defense was the difference in the game.

“We played really well on defense and made smart adjustments throughout the match against Salado,” she said. “We also served really well tonight and disrupted their offense. Salado always has a great fan base and loud gym. It was good for us to go in on the road and play in an atmosphere like that. I am proud of how the girls pulled together and won tonight.”

Headed into the match, Peterson said Salado had the chance to be competitive if the Lady Panthers did not put them away early.

“Salado is always a tough match,” she said. “They have settled in and when we played them in set three last time, that is the game we won 27-25. We knew they are a good team and had the potential to make some impressive runs. When you play on the road after a long day of school, you need to be dialed in. It was good for us to be pushed and challenged, and we knew Salado would do that.”

Last Friday, the Panthers hosted Lampasas in their annual Pink Out game in front of a packed house. For the past 10 years, during the month of October, the Lady Panthers have sold t-shirts in support of breast cancer awareness and research while also recognizing the junior high volleyball program.

Liberty Hill swept the Lady Badgers in three games 25-16, 25-14 and 25-13. Nelson had a huge night with seven kills, seven aces and one block. Emilee Allred had nine assists and Emma Parsons added eight in the win. Wukasch led the team in digs with five and Wilkins had four in a strong effort.

“We played hard with our intensity level and the way we went after balls against Lampasas,” Peterson said. “We really pushed our tempo and we did a lot of good things in areas I feel we had been stagnant in. It was good to see the girls break out of that and see them push themselves. November is right around the corner and it will be playoff time. They had a good energy Friday. It was a better mindset in the way we attacked the game, and I was really pleased with that. They played with a stronger and more confident mentality.”

For many of the Lady Panthers, this will be their first-time entering post season play once it begins. Peterson said there will be a quick learning curve.

“We have a lot of players that this will be their first time in the playoffs, but that is just the reality of the situation,” Peterson said. “It will be new to them, but it will be new to a lot of these girls this year. We must challenge ourselves in practice and watch game film early on teams we may see in the playoffs. We have to watch some of the playoff matches from last year, so they can see there is a considerable difference in intensity level.”

Although their bi-district opponent has not been set, Peterson has wasted no time in setting up a warm up game for the team before the playoffs start. The Lady Panthers will play Georgetown Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in preparation for the 2018 playoffs.

“I think playing Georgetown in a warm up game will be great for us,” Peterson said. “They will be a bigger, faster-tempo team than we have seen, and it will be a change from what we have seen in the last few weeks of district. We will need to lean on our veterans who have been there before. We have tried to prep them along the way as best we can. There will always be jitters, but we need to play within ourselves and not make it bigger than it needs to be. Every day we get a little bit better. They have done a really good job of putting forth the effort to become a good team.”

The Lady Panthers travel to Austin to face Eastside Memorial Friday and close out district play Oct. 23 against Taylor on Senior Night. Varsity game times are set for 6 p.m. with junior varsity and freshman teams playing at 5 p.m.

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