Volleyball earns district awards

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill varsity girls’ volleyball season has ended, but the team is still racking up awards for their district domination.

The Lady Panthers went 10-0 in District 27-4A en route to another district title. Liberty Hill also claimed four of the top six individual postseason awards, including Co-MVP, Offensive Player of the Year, Setter of the Year and Co-Coach of the Year.

Junior outside hitter Ashley Nelson was named the district’s Co-MVP.

“It was a great honor to be named MVP for the district,” Nelson said. “I have loved playing volleyball at Liberty Hill for the past five years. That includes playing junior high and now high school. I’ve had the opportunity to be coached by the best and had truly awesome teammates that will be friends for life. I’ve always strived to do well in a sport that I love and welcomed being coached on all aspects of the game.”

Nelson said being named MVP encourages her for her senior volleyball season.

“This absolutely gives me motivation for next year,” she said. “I am looking forward to the challenge and working with our returning and new players. I feel confident that together we will meet this challenge. We had an upset with our finish this season, but it only drives me and my teammates to put forth all effort. We will strive to have the best finish next season.”

Junior Emily Huppee was voted Offensive Player of the Year as an outside hitter. She said when she initially found out, she was surprised by the selection.

“When I first heard, I was a little surprised,” Huppee said. “I worked hard for myself and for my team this season. As a team, we worked hard during every practice and workout. Getting this award makes me want to put in extra work during offseason to be ready for next season. This has changed my mindset for my senior season to continue to work hard and push myself.”

Freshman Emma Parsons was named Setter of the Year. Parsons said she was thankful for the selection, but would not have been surprised if another setter on her own team got the award instead.

“I was very honored to be chosen for district setter, and it felt even better as a freshman,” Parsons said. “I also know that any of our setters could have gotten it from our team. I think the award has really motivated me to work as hard as I can during offseason in order to keep improving myself and our team over the next few years.”

Head Coach Gretchen Peterson was voted Co-Coach of the Year for District 27-4A. First team all-district selections were sophomore Lili Wilkins, senior Claire Kubesh and senior McKenzie Wukasch. Second team all-district selections were sophomores Kindsee Escamilla and Emilee Allred. Seniors Allison Van Klaveren and Mia Hernandez earned honorable mention recognition.

Peterson said all players were well deserving of their awards, and it all comes from a total team effort.

“The fact that we have placed so many on our all-district team proves the point that we needed all of our players this season,” Peterson said. “They all did a great job of stepping up, and it was nice to see our district opponents recognize that, as well. Every player that stepped on the court had a job to do, and they all did it well.”

Academics are a big part of the Lady Panther volleyball program, as well, and 11 players earned academic all-district honors. Ashley Nelson, Morgan Flores, Allison Van Klaveren, Ella Shipper, Emily Huppee, Emilee Allred, Emma Parsons, Caitlin Workman, McKenzie Wukasch, Molly Meldau and Claire Kubesh all made sure to be exceptional in the classroom as well as on the court.

“Volleyball is a huge commitment,” Peterson said. “I think the work ethic that drives these girls to be good volleyball players is the same thing that allows them to be great students. They work hard and have high expectations for themselves. Most of them take a pretty rigorous load of pre-AP and dual credit college courses. They are not slacking in the academic area. They have bigger goals for themselves than high school. It is hard to make good grades, miss school and stay up late after games and practice. They made the commitment and honor that really well.”
With six returning players earning postseason recognition, the future of the program is bright.

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