Panthers pick up district wins over Burnet, Lampasas

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Liberty Hill forward Mark Montes (#18) snatches the ball from a group of Burnet defenders during the Panthers’ win on Feb. 9. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

The Liberty Hill boys’ soccer team improved their district record to 2-0 with a 7-1 win over Lampasas Tuesday night. The Panthers (7-5-2, 2-0) held a 4-0 lead at halftime and never looked back. Jaaron Frye scored a team high three goals on the night. Mark Montes was second on the team with two goals. Freshman Jessie Anaya and junior Colton Walter each put away a goal for the Panthers in the win, as well.

Head Coach Darren Bauer said he was very pleased with the overall team effectiveness in the win.

“The guys played very well tonight,” Bauer said. “We did a couple things we focused on in practice, and it spread Lampasas out. They tried to pressure us, and we played very patient and got the passes we were looking for. It opened up pretty quick, and we capitalized on a couple of their mistakes early on. With our possession and the way we played, it just opened up tonight. Bryce Stratton and Colton Walter played really well tonight. They controlled everything in the middle and kept everyone locked into our game plan.”

The Panthers put away Burnet last Friday night 7-2 to open district play with a win. The Panthers jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first half and controlled from then on. Frye and senior Michael Shipley each put away three goals in the district-opening win. Montes also had a goal in the win.

Over the past two district games, the team has scored 14 goals, and the offense shows no signs of slowing down.

“Our offense has come a long way,” Bauer said. “The big thing was not just finishing our chances, but creating a lot better chances. They are starting to understand each other’s runs and how we want to play up top. It is helping us create better chances, and the past two district games, we have done a lot better job finishing. Our offense is steadily improving, and that’s a good thing for us.”

On the flip side, the defense has tightened up significantly since the team opened district play.

“Our defense tonight was good against Lampasas,” Bauer said. “The last goal they put away was a late one. The angles were all there, and we made one mistake in the back and gave away a penalty kick. The kids in at that time need the experience in case we need them to play later down the road. It was disappointing to give away a goal at the end, but they will learn from that experience.”

Adjustments are important in the game of soccer. Players have to recognize where the team has a weakness and improve it before it can be exploited, and the Panthers have done just that.

“The things we worked on between the Burnet game and the Lampasas game made a big difference against Lampasas,” Bauer said. “We still had some good possession against Burnet, but we did have some issues with our spacing. Fortunately, we were still strong enough to create opportunities and put some goals away.”

Liberty Hill spent much of its pre-district schedule playing larger schools with faster opponents. That scheduling tactic has helped the Panthers prepare for district play.

“One of the goals with how I set up the schedule is to have this effect,” Bauer said. “We try to schedule the tough 4A schools we might see in Regionals or State later. With those teams and the 5A and 6A schools we play, I feel sometimes we are a little more prepared than some other teams. When we start facing the 4A teams that are our size, we have that edge and tenacity about us. Sometimes, other teams are used to playing a little bit slower paced teams than we are used to playing.”

Friday night, the Panthers host Leander Glenn in a game that could decide first place in district 26-4A. Game time is set for 7:00 p.m.

“We have to be sharp when we play Glenn on Friday night, plain and simple,” Bauer said. “They will come out and be a tough opponent. Whoever comes out on top in this game will be in the driver seat, and the other team will be chasing a little bit. It is important that we play sharp, keep our angles and play well Friday night.”

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