Keegan Walton usually doesn't get credited with kills on the stat sheet.
As Liberty Hill's libero, the junior is normally low to the ground, receiving serves and spikes from the opposition and piling up digs in the process.
So, Walton might've been the most surprised one in the building on Tuesday night when Stephenville came calling on the Lady Panthers and she indeed got a kill – her first of the entire season – in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-18) Liberty Hill victory.
“We'll make sure she gets that one,” said Lady Panthers head coach Marie Bruce. “She definitely earned it.”
Despite the visitors' nickname – the Honeybees – it was the home side that spent much of the match buzzing around the net and it didn't take long for the Purple-and-Gold to establish its dominance early on in the proceedings.
Gigi Mason and Annie Witt sandwiched kills around a Morgan Poulain block as Liberty Hill built a lead that stretched out to as much as 17-7 before claiming the opening set rather easily.
In the second set, though, Stephenville began to show why it's currently ranked 16th in Class 4A in finally taking its first lead of the evening at 9-8.
However, the advantage was short-lived as Mason and Kealy Dirner hammered home back-to-back kills to quell the uprising in restoring a Liberty Hill lead it wouldn't relinquish in winning the second stanza.
But, with the score still tied, 17-17, a ball ricocheted off Walton – who was attempted to play the ball to a teammate – and over the net for a winner
With that kind of favorable fortune on their side, the Lady Panthers jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the third set – a sequence that included three kills by Mason to go with a pair of kills and a block by Poulain.
But, once again, the visitors proved stubborn in pulling to as close as 15-13 before the hosts were able to put them away.
Fittingly on match point, it was Walton who ended up falling backwards to the floor after a sprawling dig in helping set up the winner.
Mason led Liberty Hill with nine kills, while Witt added five in the win.
According to Bruce, her team was able to bring to fruition in live competition seeds that were planted in practice.
“We've been working on communication and moving our feet to the ball,” said Bruce. “Both of those things are everything.”
Bruce attributed Stephenville's ability to stay in the match to her side's mental letdown after having breezed to victory in the opening set.
“I think we let up off the gas pedal a little too much,” she said. “We came down off that adrenaline rush and made some silly errors.”
But, Bruce added some core players for the Lady Panthers were able to right the ship before it could veer off course.
“Annie (Witt) had a big effect on the court and so did Gigi (Mason),” she said. “Also, (junior) Carson (Glenn) did a great job with her decision-making – she's really underrated because she's a setter.”
Speaking of those whose job description is to toil away in obscurity while the big hitters up front get all the glory, Bruce praised sophomore setter Ava Hight for her continued progress.
“Ava's done great – especially with her serving – and has been working hard to be a varsity setter,” she said. “Compared to JV, you really have to pay attention to what's going on across the net.”
Finally, Poulain received her usual amount of deserved credit.
“Morgan always seems to keep us moving forward,” said Bruce, of the 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker, who had four kills and four blocks. “She always makes a difference whenever she's on the court.”