Lady Panthers look to secure undefeated district title at home
By Joseph Garcia
When the Lady Panther volleyball team defeated rival Burnet Tuesday night, there was no tickertape parade, the band did not play the Liberty Hill Fight Song and no trophy was in sight – purposely.
Even though Liberty Hill (8-0, 23-17) secured at the very least a share of the District 8-3A championship with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-14, 25-13) sweep over the Lady Bulldogs, Lady Panthers Coach Gretchen Peterson will not celebrate until the final match on Tuesday, Oct. 23, against Lampasas. And before facing the Lady Badgers, Liberty Hill will host Brownwood on Friday, Oct. 19.
“We are not done yet,” said Peterson. “I think we just really want to say we did it on our own and didn’t need any help from anybody and to be able to say 10-0 is a big deal. We want to stick to that.”
After defeating Llano in three sets last Friday in Llano, the Lady Panthers returned home for a three-game home stretch to close out the season, beginning with Burnet.
The first set quickly started in Liberty Hill’s favor as the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 5-2 lead with back-to-back kills from Madi Sharp. Then following an ace by Kallie Perrin and a couple of kills by Samantha Rimann, Liberty Hill built a 20-10 lead.
But Burnet came back, going on a 9-2 run to pull to 22-17 before Liberty Hill closed out the first on a Peyton Redmond tip after a long rally to win 25-17.
In the second, it was tight early with six ties until Liberty Hill began to pull away in dominant fashion for a 25-14 win.
“(The team) played well,” Peterson said. “We had some mental miscues but we came out really strong. We thought Burnet was going to come out stronger and when they didn’t we were kind of surprised and just said we are going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Liberty Hill certainly kept the pressure on, making quick work of the Lady Bulldogs in the final set, highlighted by a 6-0 run with Payton Walker serving, doubling the lead at 16-8. A couple of kills from Emily Philpott and Redmond helped seal the deal before Burnet completely ended hope by hitting the ball into the net on match point.
With two matches remaining before the playoffs, which the Lady Panthers secured last week, there is just enough time to correct aspects of Liberty Hill’s game that need adjusting before the postseason.
“Overall, I’m pleased with the way we played,” Peterson said. “We do need to work on staying intense and focused and staying strong and tough throughout the entire match, but it’s always nice to get a district win.”
Coach Peterson said the personality of the 2012 Lady Panthers combined with their talent seemingly works well in pressure situations like they would face in the playoffs. Rather than being uptight, this squad is laid back, but willing to fight for each other.
“They are a very laid back group, they take their play seriously but not themselves too seriously,” Peterson said. “Their personalities are much more conducive to a laid back environment.”
The environment at the Panthers Den will not be tranquil next Tuesday if Liberty Hill can complete the feat of becoming undefeated district champions. That is still the immediate goal, but the Lady Panthers also have their sights set on making a deep run in the playoffs.
But for now, 10-0 is the mantra.