PANTHER OF THE WEEK: UT Dallas commit Gabi Sommerfield leads Lady Panthers past Ducks

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Liberty Hill middle blocker Gabi Sommerfield (#12) prepares to serve during a home game against Lorena. On Tuesday, Sommerfield led the Lady Panthers with five aces to remain undefeated in district play. (Alex Rubio Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

Gabi Sommerfield is a product of Liberty Hill, having grown up in Liberty Hill and attended LHISD her entire life. The 6’1” senior middle blocker got her first volleyball experience on the court at Liberty Hill Junior High in seventh grade.

Sommerfield has a true passion for the game of volleyball, much of which she credits to her exposure to success within the volleyball program at a young age. That taste of success has pushed her to want the same for her own teams.

“My freshman year at Liberty Hill High School was one of my favorite, because I was on the team with my classmates,” she said. “At the end of the season, Brooklynn Jones and I got pulled up to varsity for the playoffs. That was the first year Liberty Hill made it to the State Tournament. That exposure set the standard for me and what I wanted to do in my career. My sophomore year, I played on junior varsity then moved up to varsity for the bi-district playoff. We went to five games with Wimberley and lost. I knew the next year I wanted to go to State because our season ended too quickly my sophomore year. That made me want to push a little harder. Those experiences so early were extremely valuable.”

Sommerfield stepped into a starting role for the Lady Panthers her junior season, and she’s been a valuable contributor for the Lady Panthers ever since.

“My junior year was my first season on varsity, and I immediately had to come in and fill the shoes of Allee Nix, who was a great middle for our program,” she said. “I tried not to replace her role, but only worry about filling my own. During the season, we finally started to click and we won all of our district games. We rolled through the playoffs and then were at the State Tournament, which I think surprised us a little. Throughout the whole year, we said we were going, and then got there and didn’t play to the best of our ability.”

Last year’s loss in the State Semifinal left a bad taste in her mouth. She knew it would take dedication and working harder than she ever had before to accomplish the team’s goal of a State Championship.

“After our loss last year, I was really upset,” she said. “It was my dream to be a state champion for as long as I can remember. We came so close, and it was heartbreaking that we didn’t get it. Headed into the offseason, my only focus was getting better and helping my team become state champions. During the offseason, our team worked really hard, because we know what it takes to get where want.”

Head Volleyball Coach Gretchen Peterson believes Sommerfield, who has worked her way through the ranks, thanks in large part to her work outside of practice, is a model student-athlete.

“Gabi has a huge love and passion for everything volleyball,” Peterson said. “She would play or watch all day everyday if she could. I am proud of how she has matured as a player and leader for our team. She wants to be the best she can and puts in a ton of work on her own time. I am so excited for her and how she will grow in college.”

On top of all the season practices, Sommerfield has also played club volleyball since the seventh grade. She’s also taken private lessons once a week since junior high. All the hard work came to fruition when she committed to play volleyball at the University of Texas at Dallas.

“My dream was always to play in college after high school, so I knew I had to put in the work to get better,” she said. “It has pushed me to do the extra workouts and private lessons. I will be playing volleyball next season at UT-Dallas. When I got to Dallas I just felt the academics, volleyball program, and coaches were amazing. They went 32-3 a year ago, and I wanted to join a successful program. I want the opportunity to win a National Championship and I will get that chance in Dallas.”

Although her post-graduation plans are set, Sommerfield has her eyes set firmly on the task at hand for the 2017 Lady Panthers. As a team leader, she knows what the perfect ending to her storybook career at Liberty Hill would be. She believes in her coach and teammates, and said all that is left is to do the work.

“Definitely the perfect ending to my senior season would be winning a State Championship with my teammates for Liberty Hill,” Sommerfield said. “There is a little pressure knowing it is my senior season. I think once we get into playoffs, the pressure will drown down and we can play not worried about where we need to make it. Coach Peterson is one of my favorite coaches. She is very positive and knows how to balance when to have fun and when to be tough. She is very driven and she wants to win a State Championship.”

After a restful bye week that gave the Lady Panthers last Friday off, Sommerfield led the team offensively with five aces as Liberty Hill swept the Taylor Ducks to give them a 3-0 district record.

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