Volleyball season ends to Fredericksburg


By Lance Catchings

MARBLE FALLS — The Liberty Hill varsity volleyball team knew it had a tough task this season.
Moving to a new region, graduating all but one starter and having your most experienced player go down with an injury are things most teams would have made excuses for, but not the Lady Panthers.

The 2018 team fought hard together all season and brought home another district championship for the school. However, on Tuesday night, their season ended in a 3-1 bi-district first-round playoff loss to Fredericksburg in Marble Falls. The Lady Panthers lost by scores of 25-18, 17-25, 25-19 and 26-24 pushing the fourth game to extra points to try and keep their playoff season alive.

Liberty Hill defeated Fredericksburg in September, but before the game, Head Coach Gretchen Peterson said teams grow and change throughout the season.

“Fredericksburg has some height, so they will put up a big block,” she said. “We had to try to play smart going around the block and be smart by trying to create splits by passing well. Fredericksburg is also a good serving team by moving us around. They tried to create disconnects in our offense. We talked about how our team changed from September to now, so if those things are true for us, they are true for Fredericksburg, as well. We really must be aware of what they have done, but be able to adjust to the moment as well.”

The Lady Panthers end their season with a 29-17 record, overall, and an undefeated 10-0 record throughout district play. Peterson said headed into the game, they would try to rely on some of their experienced players, since this would be the first time in the playoffs for many of the others.

“I think our team leaders like Claire Kubesh, Emily Huppee and Ashley Nelson will create some calm for us, because they have been there,” Peterson said. “They have done a good job of that this season. We have taken the entire season one game at a time, and I think the younger kids have rallied behind that idea. They understand the importance of it, but at the end of the day, the game is the same.”

Liberty Hill went into the contest using a two-setter rotation once again. All season, it had been effective at keeping teams off balance.

“We have some really good blockers in Kubesh and Kindsee Escamilla, and it makes the most sense for us right now to rotate our setters,” Peterson said. “If we switch our offense to a single setter, then one of them has to come off, and I like our odds with both on the court. Both Emilee Allred and Emma Parsons do a great job on front row, and there are some things we can change and do with them on front row. I think we have some great height and athleticism on our right side, and right now, it does not make sense to have one of them sitting. They are both able to make contributions defensively and offensively, so we wanted to try to take advantage of that.”

Leading up to the game, Peterson had been very pleased with the effort and focus her team showed in practice.

“I think our players understand that games are won in practice, and that’s when we make each other better,” she said. “In practice, everyone gets reps and has a part. It can be hard to get kids to buy in when they are not playing as much during the game. This group has really done a good job of that. They all trust each other, because they have all seen each other step up at different times when needed to.”

Prior to the bi-district match, Liberty Hill played a warm-up game against Georgetown. The Lady Panthers lost 3-1, but gained some valuable experience from their effort.

“We played well against Georgetown,” Peterson said. “We were either going to win, get our teeth kicked in or it be a good game we learned a lot from. I think number three was the option. We learned a lot and got a bit of a refresher and a wake up. Not that they were not playing hard before, but we need to be able to turn it on, and I thought they did that.”

The Lady Panthers had a season to be proud of. Many of the players will now transition to other sports, and the rest will start working hard to get better for next season.