By LANCE CATCHINGS
Before imposing 5’10” senior outside hitter Jenna Lyons started slamming down kills for the Lady Panthers, she fell in love with the game of volleyball as a seventh-grader. Her love for the sport started in a small town 110 miles north of Liberty Hill called Brownwood.
“I used to live in Brownwood, which is a small school, so everyone played all the sports,” Lyons said. “I started liking basketball, but as I grew older volleyball grew on me.”
Fast forward a few years and the four-year letterman found herself relocated to a new school and community. Moves can be tough for some student-athletes, but Liberty Hill was the perfect match for Lyons, who moved to Liberty Hill in the middle of her sophomore year.
“It was hard at first, not really knowing anyone, but as soon as I got in the gym I clicked with my teammates,” she said. “It was tough leaving Brownwood, but we didn’t have a very successful program. In Brownwood, I had a lot of weight on my shoulders, but here everyone plays their part and we can rely on each other. It was fun to come into a successful program with a great atmosphere and great coaches.”
After her spring semester transfer, she and her new teammates had lofty expectations for their junior campaign. The team met those expectations with hard work and ended their season in the State Semifinal.
“Our junior year volleyball season was amazing,” she said. “The preseason is always pretty difficult, because coach Peterson schedules hard to prepare us for district. We had a tough time, but there was a point where everything clicked and we felt we were unbeatable.”
Last season may be in the past, but Lyons and her teammates are determined to finish what they started. It’s no secret where her focus lies; she has her mind set on the State Tournament.
“We definitely felt like we left unfinished business at the State Tournament,” she said. “We went into that game and did not play great. We returned all but two players from that team, so this has to be the year for us. We are prepared and know what to expect. We know the standard we have for ourselves. We just have to put in the work. My goal for this season is to end at the State Tournament and play the highest level of volleyball that we can. We have done it a few times this season and we need to play every game like that.”
Lyons finished the Volleypalooza Tournament with 44 kills, five aces, 19 digs, and five blocks over seven games that took place last Thursday through Saturday, August 24-26, but the Lady Panthers struggled as a whole, going 2-5 over the weekend.
So far this season, the Lady Panthers are still fine tuning, but Lyons has no doubt the team will find its rhythm.
“Right now, we have had a little bit of a rough time because of all the tournaments we’ve played,” she said. “We haven’t played that well together. We recently had a team meeting and addressed some things that needed to be addressed. That’s what a good team does. When they see things are not working, they address them.”
Head Volleyball coach Gretchen Peterson is proud of how much work Lyons has put in and is excited to see her improve this season.
“Jenna is an exceptional athlete and very dynamic player,” Peterson said. “She is a game changer. She always has the attention of our opponent which opens up many options for her teammates. She has the potential to quickly change the course of a game. I look forward to seeing her continued development as the season goes on.”
At the conclusion of her senior season, Lyons will take her volleyball talent to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC). A place she feels is another perfect match. TAMUCC is a Division I school that competes in the Southland Conference.
“The recruiting process was long and stressful and I am glad to be done with it,” Lyons said. “It was fun getting to see different colleges with different atmospheres and levels of volleyball. I like the distance of TAMUCC. It’s not too close but also not extremely far away. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. The staff and the campus were great and it’s right next to the beach, which I love.”
As a junior last season, Lyons was named All Sportsman 1st team, TGCA All-Star player, TGCA All-State player, Regional Tournament MVP, and District MVP. As a sophomore at Brownwood, she was named Offensive Player of the Year. It’s likely that the awards will continue to roll in for Lyons after her senior season is complete.