Girls’ soccer moves to 4-0 in district play with back-to-back shutouts

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By Lance Catchings

The Liberty Hill girls’ soccer team (11-1-2, 4-0) posted back-to-back shutouts over Salado (10-5-1, 3-1), Tuesday night and Little River Academy last Friday. Liberty Hill edged out Salado 2-0 in their tightest district contest of the season and rolled Little River Academy 12-0.

“We approached Salado just like any other team and tried to stay focused in on what we needed to do to get the win,” Head Coach Darren Bauer said. “Salado was a rivalry game, so it adds a little extra to it, but I think our girls are focused on what we want to achieve in the long run. Since we have that as our main goal, I didn’t think we would let Salado get in our way.”

Last Friday night, Liberty Hill led Little River Academy 6-0 at halftime and had the game well in hand throughout. Bauer said his team tried a new approach in the win.

“Against Little River Academy, we played a little different than we have the rest of the season,” he said. “We threw a new formation at them just to look as some things. We thought they did well, moving the ball around and creating opportunities. At some points, I felt we played better than other games. We took a lot of positives away from it, but there are always other things we can work on to take steps forward.”

Bauer believes it is good to mix things up in your program.

“We didn’t like how some things were working, and we also want to keep our players on their toes a little bit,” he said. “We want them to be able to play different ways, because at some point, we may need to, whether it be due to injuries or other things like that.”

In the first half, the teams had to stop play due to a short lightning delay, which Bauer used to his advantage.

“During the lightning delay, we talked about a few things with the new formation and tactics to work through it,” he said. “Once play resumed, I felt we came out and picked up right where we left off. They made the adjustments we talked about as soon as they got back on the field. You don’t always like those delays, but everything worked out fine for us.”

Liberty Hill added another six goals in the second half to reach their 12-0 final. Madi Fuller, Katie Wilson, Piper Tabor and Brooke Briscoe each scored two goals in the win. Athena Brown, Emma Stephens and Elizabeth Perez all scored one. Briscoe and Fuller each had three assists on the night. Stephens tallied two assists, while Brown and freshman Alyssa Lee each had one. Bauer said he was pleased with the growth he is seeing from his younger players.

“I think our younger players have adjusted well so far,” he said. “We are giving some younger girls some more opportunities, and we are moving some around a bit to find the best fit. Katie and Emma are both filling their roles very nicely and helping to take some of that pressure off the other girls. Besides having players with the ability, speed and skill on the wings, we knew teams would focus in on players like Brooke, Abby and Bryden in the middle, because they did so well last year. I think with teams focusing on them more in the middle, it has opened for us even more on the wings. Teams are starting to realize that we are not one dimensional like some teams are. It is hard to figure out, but adding to our wing play and the explosiveness we are getting in goals is because teams are focused on taking away our midfield.”

Liberty Hill also has quite a bit of team speed, but Bauer said that is more of a luxury than something to be relied on.

“Right now, we have some speed on our team, and it is an extra weapon for us,” he said. “With that said, we talk to the girls a lot, because eventually, you will run into somebody that is just as fast as you are. When that happens, you must be able to do it without speed. If we can do it without having to use our speed, then that becomes an extra bonus for us. It is another dimension that teams have to worry about, but it is not our focus.”

Liberty Hill travels to Burnet Friday and will host Lampasas Feb. 19 at Panther Stadium. Game times are set for 5:30 p.m.

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