Liberty Hill welcomes soccer to Panther Stadium

Averi Stratton (purple jersey) pressures the Wimberley player in an effort to win the ball back for the Lady Panthers in the team’s first soccer scrimmage Monday.  (Photo by Kathy Canady)

Averi Stratton (purple jersey) pressures the Wimberley player in an effort to win the ball back for the Lady Panthers in the team’s first soccer scrimmage Monday. (Photo by Kathy Canady)

By TAYLOR GRAFFT

Soccer in Liberty Hill is officially underway after the boys and girls teams scrimmaged against the Wimberley Texans on Monday in front of a large crowd of supporters.

The coaches and players have already named this the “unofficial season” since there will not be any official games for the Panthers. Regardless, the team is excited to finally have the sport at the school.

The scrimmages were deemed a success by spectators and coaches, who liked the effort they saw on the field.

The scrimmage was played at Panther Stadium and the atmosphere was electric. Coaches and players were surprised at the large turnout in the stands.

For those familiar with international soccer and the World Cup, there was even a vuvuzela spotted and being played by a Liberty Hill supporter.

Players began after-school practices in December 2013, and finally had a chance Monday to test their skills against another team for 90 minutes.

Neither the girls or boys were able to come out with a win over the Texans, but that is expected when a first-time program plays another team. Wimberley has had a soccer program 10 years.

“Everyone was very excited, especially me because it was the first soccer game ever for Liberty Hill,” said Lady Panthers Head Coach Kelsey Quinn. “Just to be a part of this and have the community come out and see what we’re all about is special. I’m glad it was well received in the community and we had a large turnout. When the players saw the large crowd and realized it was a lot more than just their parents, they thought it was pretty awesome.”

It’s also clear that Liberty Hill has a lot of talent on their rosters, but it will take some time for the teams to build chemistry and understanding on the pitch.

“I thought we created a lot of chances,” said boys Head Coach Darren Bauer. “I felt like we had a lot of chances and missed on a few opportunities, while Wimberley had a few and finished on their chances.”

Both coaches said that they had a few players missing from their lineups on Monday against Wimberley due to various activities outside of school. Liberty Hill students are still on winter break through Jan. 6.

In the boys scrimmage, the Texans took an early lead on an own goal by the Panthers. Omar Perez tied the game and scored Liberty Hill’s inaugural goal of the program a few minutes before halftime.

Liberty Hill’s next great chance came with seven minutes remaining in the half on an attack down the right wing. A low cross found the chest of Perez, but the forward was unable to get it past the Wimberley goalkeeper.

Two minutes later, the Texans took a one-goal lead with five minutes remaining in the half. A Wimberley player intercepted a Panther throw-in and broke free behind the defense for a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie. The attacker finished with a low shot into the bottom right corner to give Wimberley a 2-1 lead at the half-way point.

Wimberley scored its third goal of the match at less than a minute into the second half. A long through ball from the midfield found a Wimberley attacker’s feet for another one-on-one opportunity. The attacker finished calmly with a low shot into the bottom right corner and gave the Texans a 3-1 lead.

Liberty Hill’s first chance of the second half came 11 minutes in. The Panthers had several great chances to finish in the box, but Wimberley was finally able to clear the lines after at least three shots on goal were saved.

Six minutes later, Wimberley scored the fourth goal on a counter attack that started in midfield. The goal came after the attacker finished another break away, one-on-one with the goalkeeper.

Three minutes later, Liberty Hill found the back of the net for a second time in the match. It was Perez again who found himself on the end of a loose ball in the box. The goal was set up after Lucas Rizzotto sent a corner kick into the box. The Texans were able to clear the ball for a brief moment before a Liberty Hill player was able to flick the ball back into the box with his head and fall to the feet of Perez who was wide open in front of goal.

The Texans would score two more goals in the match to take home a 6-2 victory over the Panthers.

In the Lady Panthers’ scrimmage, Liberty Hill controlled much of the possession throughout the match. The Texans relied on counter attacks and their speed down the wings to break through the Panthers’ back line. Liberty Hill’s tactics relied on their physicality on and off the ball, as well as short build-up play.

The teams were deadlocked for the first 24 minutes of the match. The Texans finally broke through in the 25th minute after an attacker sent a curling shot from the top of the box into the back of the net to make it 1-0.

Seven minutes later, the Texans scored their second goal of the match after a through ball into the box found a Wimberley winger, who sent a low cross into the six-yard box to the feet of a forward who scored a tap-in goal.

Wimberley scored their third goal of the first half in stoppage time after the Texans’ forward scored on a one-on-one opportunity with the goalie.

Liberty Hill found their first goal of the season 10 minutes into the second half. Rae Jordan stole the ball from a Wimberley center back and broke free from the defense. Jordan sent a hard shot from about 20 yards out into the back of the net. The goalkeeper was able to get a touch on the ball, but couldn’t stop it from going in.

Wimberley scored their fourth and final goal nine minutes later. A hard shot from the right side of the box was spilled by the Liberty Hill goalkeeper and the rebound fell to the feet of another Wimberley attacker who had an easy finish in front of goal.

The boys team will play Vandegrift at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 3, at Panther Stadium. The Lady Panthers  will play East View at 3 p.m. immediately following the boys game.