LHHS opens volleyball district play with sweeps over Taylor, Llano

Senior Jaycie Pluenneke (#15) spikes the ball to get a crucial point versus Taylor in a home district game Tuesday. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Senior Jaycie Pluenneke (#15) spikes the ball to get a crucial point versus Taylor in a home district game Tuesday. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By Taylor Grafft

Liberty Hill’s bench players got a taste of District 25-4A action Tuesday night in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-8) win against Taylor.

With the match in hand, Coach Gretchen Peterson put in some of the bench players that normally don’t get to play as much in the third game. She says that extra playing time will help them, as they get deeper into their district schedule and during playoffs when they need depth off the bench. She also said it will help the three juniors next season when they have to replace the nine seniors and assume bigger roles.

After playing a tough non-district schedule, which featured some of the best teams from around the region, the Panthers have done a great job of keeping their intensity up no matter who they play in district.

“You have to push yourself and rise to certain occasions,” Peterson said. “We’re able to work on some things in practice to help keep the intensity up. We try to do some different things, like scrimmaging ourselves or bringing in some of the JV or freshman players to make the practices high intensity and high energy. What it comes down to is we have to put the pressure on ourselves to play at a certain level.”

The Liberty Hill volleyball team opened District 25-4A with an easy road win against Llano in 3-0 (25-14, 25-20, 25-7) sweep Friday.

Coach Peterson was pleased with her team’s performance and how they set the precedent for the rest of the season.

“We had some mental lapses and let down a little,” Peterson said. “But we worked through that well…it’s always good to start district with a win.”

The Panthers’ excellent serving in the match was one of the keys to victory, especially from senior outside hitter Peyton Redmond.

“Our hitters made some really good connections with Kelly (McKinzey) and it was good to see that,” Peterson said. “Peyton Redmond served really well and I thought (Payton) Walker played well…our middles also looked good.”

Peterson has talked all season about how well McKinzey has played with the reps she has been given. After replacing last season’s setter, Kallie Perrin, McKinzey has been building chemistry with her teammates and earned valuable experience during non-district and in tournaments.

“We served really well and played aggressive for most of the match,” Peterson added.

One player in particular on the Liberty Hill volleyball team has stepped up her game in recent weeks for the Panthers — senior outside hitter Kaley Nelson.

Nelson possesses quick reflexes and is light on her feet, which allows her to be a defensive specialist and save balls from hitting the floor.

“Kaley is a great utility player,” Peterson said. “She’s extremely quick on defense, reads things well, and jumps really well. She’s got a lot more confident and really matured as a player.”

The Panthers defeated the Taylor Ducks 3-0 (25-14, 25-15, 25-8) Tuesday to win their first district home match of the season.