Coming off it first district defeat against rival Rouse on Friday, Liberty Hill head coach Marie Bruce was looking for a response from her team in its home match with Hays on Tuesday.
Well, that's exactly what she got in the Lady Panthers' 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-16) victory over the Hawks.
“After what happened on Friday, our girls came into this match with a chip on their shoulders,” said Bruce, of Liberty Hill's four-set loss to the Raiders. “We could've beat Rouse – we were up in the first and fourth sets.”
One player that carried over momentum from the previous match was junior outside hitter Kealy Dirner, who collected 12 kills against Rouse and once again led the Purple-and-Gold with 11 in the win over Hays.
In addition, Gigi Mason pounded 11 kills against Rouse and continued her offensive onslaught with the opening winner of the match on Tuesday night.
However, the Hawks – who entered the match tied with Liberty Hill for second in the district standings – quickly rebounded in winning the next five points.
After that, the home side responded in kind, including a sequence midway through the set that saw the Lady Panthers take the lead on a kill by sophomore Annie Witt and a back-to-back kill/block by senior middle blocker Morgan Poulain, who added another block for the set-winner.
The second set was evenly played with the teams never getting more than a point or two apart until Liberty Hill wrested control of the stanza in taking as much as a 19-13 advantage on the strength of a pair of Mason kills and a Dirner ace before closing out the set.
But, that wasn't all from Dirner, as she began the third set with a pair of kills on the way to six in the final set to go with a pair of aces in helping the Lady Panthers close out the visitors, with Ava Kostroun doing the honors with the final point of the night.
Mason added six kills and Poulain had four kills and six blocks in the win.
According to Bruce, it was more than just the starters getting it done for her team, but critical contributions from bench players.
“Both (senior) Macy Land and (junior) Kylie Hutchinson came in and did their jobs well,” said Bruce of the pair of defensive specialists. “As a team, it's important to have players like that who can take on that role.”
Liberty Hill (30-8, 5-1) moved into sole possession of second place in the district standings with the victory and will next host Lockhart on Friday night to finish off the first round of district play
Bruce said finishing with one of the top two seeds is paramount to possible postseason success.
“I think you can really go into the playoffs with confidence that way,” she said. “You know you've really earned your spot.”