Girls’ soccer goes 3-0-1 to open season at Panther Cup


By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill girls’ soccer team got off to a great start to the 2018-2019 season, going 3-0-1 at the Inaugural Panther Cup tournament hosted at Liberty Hill High School over the weekend.

Head Coach Darren Bauer wanted to host an early tournament filled with competitive teams from the class 4A division to jump-start the season.

“It is the beginning of the year, so there will be some rust and things to work out, no matter how good you are or how much talent you have,” Bauer said. “The big thing with the girls is we must get the killer instinct back. We must realize that because of our results last year and what teams know about us, they may play us different. There will be times where teams pack it in and play more defensive. We must learn how to get around that and break down opponents however they are playing.”

Liberty Hill started off the tournament with a Thursday game against Fredericksburg, which looked like it would end in a tie until sophomore Madi Fuller scored a goal with less than 15 seconds left on the clock to lift her team to a 1-0 victory.

Following the narrow escape, Liberty Hill then routed La Vega 10-0 later that afternoon. Freshman Emma Stephens led the team with two goals in the win. Abigail Janicek, Haylie Cassady, Katie Wilson, Brooke Briscoe, Alyssa Lee and Kylee Bush each scored a goal in the blowout win, as well. Senior Kyla Boliek led the team in assists with two. Fuller, Stephens, Piper Tabor and Briscoe each picked up an assist in the win over La Vega.

“Fredericksburg caused us some frustration, but luckily, we got it done with 11 seconds left,” Bauer said. “A win is a win, whether it’s 1-0 or 8-0. The girls showed that even when we are frustrated, we can fight through it. In the La Vega game, we came back out and played well. La Vega gave us a lot more space, so we played with angles and finished quickly. I challenged the girls to do a couple things that game, and they did.”

Friday afternoon was the much-anticipated match between Liberty Hill and Midlothian-Heritage. Heritage ended Liberty Hill’s State Championship run last season in the state semifinals, and round two was just as good. The teams battled to a 0-0 stalemate, but there is a good chance they will see each other again this postseason if things go each team’s way.

“Midlothian-Heritage at this point was just another game,” Bauer said. “This early in the season, yeah, you want to win, but we are more focused on ourselves and doing what we need to do to get ready for district.”

The girls wrapped up the tournament Saturday morning with a 1-0 win over Brownwood. Senior Briscoe scored the winning goal on an assist from sophomore Bryden Bourgeios. After the tournament, Bauer and the coaching staff were pleased with the resolve the team showed over the three-day span.

“It was a good tournament, overall, for us,” Bauer said. “Previously, in our two scrimmages, we were worried about whether we would be complacent or come out and fight for some games. In the first game we had against Fredericksburg, that was a wake-up call that it wasn’t going to be given to us. We needed it, because it woke up the girls for the next three games of the tournament that we played well. I was very proud of how our team played against Midlothian-Heritage and Brownwood. It was all about taking a step forward each game. I think the girls achieved what we wanted this tournament and we’re happy.”

Testing yourself against the best early and often is the only way to stay sharp, and Bauer believes the Panther Cup will pay dividends down the road for his team.

“With the teams we played in Panther Cup, if we make it to State, we may have played all three teams that will be there already,” Bauer said. “The games we played this weekend will help us tremendously down the road. We knew we had to fix some holes and if we do that, we believe we can be head and shoulders above everyone else later this season.”

The Panther Cup was also a great opportunity for the staff to evaluate new talent against strong competition. Last season, the soccer program brought in a very strong freshman class, and 2018 looks to be more of the same.

“Freshmen Katie Wilson and Alyssa Lee both stepped up for us big time in this tournament,” Bauer said. “Katie stepped into a role we were a little worried about as a defender, and she has given us exactly what we want as a defender and an attacker. They have been huge in helping us, and the older girls are getting confidence in them, which is all that you can ask for.”
Next, the girls’ soccer team will travel to Round Rock Jan. 10-12 to compete at the Mav Raider Invitational.

“The Mav Raider tourney will be a weekend of good competition for us,” Bauer said. “We want to be in tournaments that will challenge us. We want the competition the whole way through the season, because we don’t want to be lackluster at any time. If we keep taking steps forward, we will be fine, and that is our main concern. The wins are nice, but we are just focused on getting better each game.”