Lady Panthers fall short to Fredericksburg

Seniors Jaycie Pluenneke (#15) and Jill Green (#2) combine to block a Lady Billies’ attack on Tuesday in the Panthers Den. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Seniors Jaycie Pluenneke (#15) and Jill Green (#2) combine to block a Lady Billies’ attack on Tuesday in the Panthers Den.
(Kathy Canady Photo)

By Taylor Grafft

Oh so close.

The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers varsity volleyball team lost to Fredericksburg on Tuesday night in a heartbreaker at the Panthers Den after forcing a Game 5. The Ladies fell short, losing three games to two (22-25, 21-25, 25-13, 26-24, 10-15).

One of the largest crowds of the season created a playoff type atmosphere for the Lady Panthers and was one of the many reasons the team grabbed momentum and came close to upsetting the recently No. 9 ranked Lady Billies, according to a Texas Girls Coaches Association poll.

“I really want to commend them, they could have quit after playing poorly in game one and two, but they came back and played really well in game three and four,” said Head Coach Gretchen Peterson. “The fifth game goes by so fast and when you lose that momentum, even for a second, it is so hard to recover. We’re happy that we went through this because this will prepare us for district and playoffs.”

The girls did so well to battle back from a two to zero game deficit, but could not finish off their opponents in the final race to 15 points. The Liberty Hill crowd was loud as they cheered every point, and proudly chanted their school spirit during each timeout.

The varsity team was coming off an open week, having not played since Sept. 2, when they traveled to Copperas Cove. In the first two games, the rust was a little apparent as Liberty Hill struggled on their defensive covering and passing.

However, in game three the Lady Panthers turned that rust into magic as they grabbed total control and dominated from start to finish. One player in particular that turned it around was outside hitter and senior Peyton Redmond.

Redmond was getting noticeably frustrated with herself after missing some points in games one and two, but the senior leader completely dominated in games three, four and five with some of her best defense and swings of the season.

The Lady Panthers’ passing was the main element that was lacking in the first two games, but the girls showed more confidence and composure for the rest of the match.

Senior Jill Green had one of her best games serving the ball for Liberty Hill, as the outsider hitter finished with five or six aces. The Lady Panthers back row played strong defense in games three and four. Allee Nix and Jaycie Pluenneke were strong at the net on the attack and with their blocking. Payton Walker was once again the vocal leader that kept the team constantly up when things weren’t going the Lady Panthers’ way. She also provided great defense and sacrificed her body by making countless diving attempts and key digs.

Yet despite how well the Lady Panthers turned it around in the final three games, they came up five points short.

In game three the Lady Panthers went on a 10-4 run before Fredericksburg was forced to call a timeout. Following the timeout, the Panthers continued that run and extended their lead to 14-4. The Lady Billies broke the serve and battled back to 16-10. Key points by Redmond helped fight off Fredericksburg and extend the lead to double digits, 23-12. A kill by Green finished off the set with a 25-13 win.

In game four Liberty Hill battled a lot of adversity, but held on to get the close win. The game was back and forth, with neither team giving up any long runs throughout. After going up three points, 23-20, the Lady Panthers let up a little and allowed Fredericksburg to tie the game 24-all. A kill by Kelly McKinzey and Redmond gave Liberty Hill the points they needed to tie the match at two games each.

In the final game five, Liberty Hill started off slow despite having all the momentum in the previous two games. With the game tied at six points each, Green aced her serve to give Liberty Hill the one point advantage. Fredericksburg then tied the game at 7-all after a double hit by Liberty Hill. Following that, the Lady Billies went on an 8-3 run to finish off Liberty Hill, 15-10.

The Lady Panthers return to action on Friday night at home against Lorena, before they head to Waco to play Robison on Sept. 16.