PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Ella Shipper’s hard work, maturity shining in playoffs

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Junior Ella Shipper (#5) waits for the serve during the Panthers’ playoff victory over La Grange. Shipper, a three-year letterman, will likely play a huge role in Liberty Hill’s upcoming State Tournament appearance. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

When the starting six volleyball players for Liberty Hill take the court, five of them are seniors. The sixth is junior Ella Shipper, who has earned the trust of her senior teammates through hard work and dedication. Liberty Hill’s Head Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson said it is her dynamic ability to help her team that always makes an impact.

“Ella has never hesitated to jump in and make an impact,” Peterson said. “Even when she was a freshman on varsity, she was impactful. She is a mature player well beyond her years. She is smart, confident and has great court sense. She plays hard every day, all out. Whether it be a practice or game, she plays hard for her team. Front row or back row, she always finds a way to make an impact.”

Shipper made a deal with herself at eight years old to try all the sports until she found the one she loved. Almost 10 years later, it is no secret which sport won out.

“I just wanted to be really active, and sports sounded like a fun way to do that,” Shipper said. “I went through soccer, dance, and basketball, but when I got to volleyball I stopped. It’s the one I wanted to keep doing. For me, volleyball was love at first play.”

The three-year letterman has played plenty of volleyball for the Lady Panthers. From her early days as a freshman to preparing for the State Semifinals, she loves playing for the purple and gold.

“In ninth grade, I started out on the freshman team, and Coach Peterson pulled me up after a couple of weeks,” Shipper said. “I have been on varsity ever since. It has been an awesome experience to have a high level of play and better myself and teammates. The community involvement and winning atmosphere that Liberty Hill has is an awesome thing to be a part of.

As a junior, Shipper’s perspective is just a touch different than her other starting teammates. She is thankful for the bond she shares with her upperclassmen.

“It’s really cool playing with this group of seniors,” she said. “It’s been a bond I’ve had with some of the girls for almost three years. They have been through more than I have. I get to see things from their perspective on a personal and volleyball level, and it’s really awesome to have good role models I can relate to. We always enter each game to play to win, but it definitely is a little bit different experience for me. Sometimes, the seniors often say, ‘This is my last’. Sometimes, it feels like I should be with them, but I am not. I still have another year, which will be super awesome with girls I can build these types of relationships with. It definitely is a little sad for me, but I am excited for all six of them, and I can’t wait to see what they do after high school.”

With the chance to play for a State Championship so close, Shipper said this year has been truly amazing.

“We all want to live up to our goal,” she said. “You want to play your best for your teammates at all times. It’s been an amazing experience this season. It has been fun to go through playoffs a second time and do it all again this season. It’s really nice to be able to share this experience with this group of girls, and we are really excited about the semifinal game on Friday. We are going to try to make this our most memorable year. We want to do this together for our team, because it is what we wanted.”

This weekend, Shipper and the Lady Panthers will have an opportunity to live up to that goal. At 11:00 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, Liberty Hill will take on Needville in the State Semifinal at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, TX. If they win on Friday, they’ll play in the State Championship at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 18, in the same location. There’s little doubt that Shipper will play a huge role.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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