Lady Panthers fall to No. 1 state-ranked Huffman
Hargrave took care of its business on the road.
The Liberty Lady Panthers suffered their second district loss while the Lady Falcons improved to 2-0 in the tough District 21-4A schedule, but it’s still early in the season and neither coach is discounting what’s ahead of them.
The Lady Falcons were on their game.
“We hit right at .500 and I was really pleased with that,” said Tammy White, head coach for the Huffman Hargrave Lady Falcons.
Liberty came out aggressive and took the early lead in the first set and maintained that lead until a 7-7 tie. Huffman slowly began to pull away and when Skylar Napier delivered a kill with a slide over the middle, reminding the Lady Panthers of their power play.
The Lady Falcons didn’t look back and Liberty never had the lead again, losing in three straight sets, 25-16, 25-15, and 25-7.
“I think we surprised ourselves when we jumped out to the lead and held it for a while and then fell back into our complacent mode,” said Liberty head coach Glenn Kennedy.
Some of that had to do with the number of kills the Lady Falcons put on the Lady Panthers.
Every time either side brought the heat with kills, they earned the point.
“Our defense was definitely off tonight,” he said disappointed.
“We didn’t get a lot of balls to our setter tonight to be able to put us in a situation where we could bring the heat,” Kennedy said.
White said their game plan was simple: “Play our tempo and play our speed. Do the things that we do well and let the cards fall where they may. We’ll make adjustments where needed.”
The Lady Falcons did just that, controlling the serve game with runs of 9, 8, and 8 points in a row in each of the three games.
“I think we played a great passing game as well as a great hitting game tonight,” White said.
The coach said they know every game from here on out they will have a target on their back because of the No. 1 state ranking, but also as the leader in district at this point of the season. The Lady Falcons dispatched Shepherd in their first district appearance.
“When it first came out, there was some oohs and aahs, but we understand it’s how we finish. We know we have to keep working and getting better beginning tomorrow,” White said.
While the match win was easier than anticipated, White still had some concerns.
“We still have a long way to go so it’s one day at a time focusing on a specific aspect of the game for us,” she said.
The 31-1 Lady Falcons lone loss came at the hands of 5A Port Neches-Groves earlier in the season.
“We’ve split with them,” she said. “We got them in a tournament, and then they got us.”
The ranking has only inspired her team.
“It feels great, but it makes us hungrier for much more,” she said.
“We have to first make the playoffs. We have to get through this district,” she said, which is loaded with Livingston and perennial powerhouse Tarkington.
Tarkington lost to Livingston Tuesday night, 3-1.
“It’s an exciting year for our kids and they’ve put forth great effort since last year and I’m real proud of them,” she said.
The Lady Falcons had a decided height advantage to the smaller Liberty team.
“We definitely have some height,” she said. “But if you can’t hit or block, your height means nothing.”
Across the net, the Lady Panthers seemed tentative all night.
“The game is as much mental as it is a physical one,” Kennedy said.
He believes his girls looked across the court and realized they were playing the No. 1 team in the state and it affected their play.
“We know they’re a powerhouse and we’re going to play them twice,” Kennedy said, “and I think that might have gotten into their head.”
Kennedy didn’t call a single timeout in the match until the last set when they were down 12-3.
“It’s something we’re working on as a team. These group of girls as a team need to be able to find a way to work themselves out of a hole,” he explained. “There will be games that I use every one of our timeouts, but there will also be times in a game when they’ll have to slow the pace down themselves and get a service break.”
Unfortunately, the Lady Panthers were unable to slow the Hargrave offense.
“It’s something that we will address in our practices,” the coach said.
Kennedy said they’re not hitting the panic button just yet.
“We came into both of these two district games as the underdog and we knew that,” he said.
“There’s still plenty of games to be played.”
Following the game, the second-year coach told his girls to put it behind them.
“It’s on to the next one. We have Splendora on Friday. We’ll come in and practice and get prepared for them,” he said.
The Lady Falcons will host Livingston on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in a showdown of unbeatens in district while the Lady Panthers will hit the road and try to earn a win against Splendora.