By TAYLOR GRAFFT
Junior Tayler Walter knows what it takes to be a winner on the soccer field at all levels of competition. Walter’s soccer career has featured lots of success and promise from a young age and it’s helped her grow on and off the field.
The Liberty Hill Lady Panthers soccer team is wrapping up the season next week and has grown into a confident group whose bond and abilities have improved with each scrimmage. Part of that success can be credited to Walter, whose goal-scoring ability, superior technique, and leadership has helped the Panthers beat a majority of the teams they encountered.
Last week, Walter scored four goals against Bandera and says she can really see how much her and her teammates have bonded and improved since the start of the season.
“It felt great to be able to contribute to my team,” she said. “We all worked very hard that game and came together. To work the way we did then get a victory out of it is an unbeatable bonding experience. Being able to contribute to our success as a team is the best reward.”
Playing soccer at Liberty Hill has been a dream come true for Walter who moved here in the sixth grade. She and her mother, Ame Walter, have wanted to bring soccer to Liberty Hill for a long time, and this season they finally got their wish.
Walter not only plays for the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers, she also plays in the highest level of girls select soccer in a yearlong league called Elite Clubs National League, or ECNL. Playing both school and select soccer has forced Walter to manage and balance her schoolwork and time each week. She travels to Dallas to practice or play with her team, the Dallas Texans 97, and plays against some of the best talent in the nation.
“(Playing against the top talent) is really intense,” Walter said. “You can tell you’re playing with the best of the best. The level of awareness with the girls I play with is incredible. You know where everyone is on the field and the ball rarely goes out of play because everyone is so good at keeping the ball. It’s intense because if you make one mistake it could cost you the game.”
Currently her select team is ranked seventh in the nation and second in the conference. With that prestige comes a lot of competition and exposure. Walter travels to three or four national events each year to play against other top teams from around the nation. She has played in places like Phoenix, Florida, San Diego, Chicago and New Jersey. College coaches often attend the national events, conference games, and team practices to scout out the potential.
With all the success and talent that Walter possesses, she remains humble and says she is lucky to have such great opportunities offered to her. One of those opportunities is playing in “insane” complexes around the nation and great environments.
“My favorite place to play in Texas is Dallas because we have access to some really great facilities there,” Walter said. “The Disney sports center fields in Florida are easily the nicest soccer facility I’ve been privileged to play on. Being surrounded by like-minded players and supportive people at such a nice complex makes you realize how lucky you are.”
Walter went on to describe how the travel and experiences she has faced trying to balance school and soccer has made her more mature.
“Traveling alone is different,” Walter said. “I have to remember to pack my game jerseys. We have to make ourselves dinner and do our own laundry and it’s forced me to grow up a lot. I’ve also had to keep up with my grades and I’ve had to get my schoolwork ahead of time because I sometimes have to travel across the country in the middle of the week.”
One of Walter’s best soccer experiences was playing in Germany with her ECNL team in 2011. Her team traveled there and played some of the top teams in Germany. The team also got to experience three or four games of the US Women’s Soccer team at the Women’s World Cup that year, where Walter was able to get the signature of Hope Solo, the goalkeeper for the US Women’s National Team.
Walter has thought about playing soccer at the college level when she graduates from Liberty Hill High School next year. She’s already visited Colorado State and North Carolina and has an interest in University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Walter hasn’t committed yet, but doesn’t want to rush her decision because she says she wants to make the right choice.