Greyhounds reverse score, oust Panthers

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Senior Carter Jenkins makes a kick for the Panthers during Liberty Hill’s area playoff against Boerne Friday. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Senior Carter Jenkins makes a kick for the Panthers during Liberty Hill’s area playoff against Boerne Friday. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By LAUREN JETTE

MARBLE FALLS — The Panther soccer team reached the end of the road earlier than anticipated with a 3-1 loss to Boerne in a physical game Friday in the area round of playoffs.

The head referee handed out several yellow cards and a red card during the intense game played at Marble Falls High School.

“Yeah, soccer happens that way, I’m not going to get into any details or opinions, but I thought the guys played hard under all the conditions that were on during that game,” said head coach Darren Bauer.

“We knew that Boerne team wasn’t the real Boerne team the first time we played (this season), that was the team that we saw on Friday. It was an even match and that was the same way last year with them.”

Joey Serio put the Panthers up with a goal in the first half, but the Greyhounds answered with a goal in the 50th minute of play to even the score.

Boerne found the back of the net again just 10 minutes later to take the lead, and then extended that with a goal with 35 seconds left on the clock to seal the win.

“On any given day, either one of our teams could win and that’s the fun about playoffs is when you meet teams like that, it makes the games fun,” Bauer said. “Things happen, and that’s what I reiterated to the guys, things happen in life and don’t always go the way you want it to. They are not always fair and not always planned and you have to deal with it and learn how to move on and learn how to grow from it. I think it’s going to light a fire under them next year.”

The Panthers hosted Boerne on March 11, and defeated the Greyhounds 6-0.

“(Boerne) switched a couple things around tactically on us, but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t overcome. We got the first goal,” Bauer said.

“In the second half, we had a couple of chances to put 2-0 up. This game, compared to the last one, they just moved the ball better and faster, which still wasn’t overtaking us. At the end of the day, they put that second goal away and we didn’t.”

It was an emotional game for the Panthers who wanted to return to the state championship game and write an outcome opposite of last year’s loss.

“I think the big thing is they knew they were good enough to go win state this year and for it to end the way it did, was heartfelt,” Bauer said.

“I can already tell they have learned from it and they are hungry for next year already, which is a good thing.”

The loss was the final game for six seniors: Matthew Gainer, Carter Jenkins, Joey Serio, Garrett Smith, Clayton Oehrlien and Giovany Salazar.

“Those two (starters) were big contributors this year, but I think we have the ability to be even better next year, because as young as we are, we’re going to have all those kids growing and maturing, if we can fill those two spots we’re losing, it’s going to be scary,” Bauer said.

Liberty Hill ends its second varsity season with a 20-4 record and District 25 championship after going undefeated.

While Bauer would prefer to schedule tough teams before district action starts, that probably won’t be possible with the new district for the Panthers.

“The problem is our new alignment for soccer is nine teams and if we play two rounds of district, which looks like what we’re going to have to do, it’s basically a tournament then district,” Bauer said.

“This year district started in the middle of February, next year it’s going to start like Jan. 17, which is like a week and a half after the season starts. So it’s going to be hard to get those tough games in there like we want, to get us ready.”

Burnet and Leander Glenn will join Liberty Hill, Florence, Jarrell, Salado, Lampasas and Little River Academy in District 25 next season.

A new challenge for Bauer this season was the opportunity to coach the girls team in addition to leading the boys team. With practices scheduled before and after school, it was a long season, but a fun experience, he said.

“The big thing was getting to know a lot more kids. I kind of knew the girls, knew who they were, but never built a relationship with them before this year,” Bauer said.

“At times, it was hard and tiring, but to build those bonds and see the teams grow closer together as well, having to play and having to travel together this year, it was fun.”

While a break for the offseason will be welcome, although earlier than expected, Bauer is already looking forward to next season at Liberty Hill.

“On the girls side, they’ve seen what we’re about and what we’re trying to do and it’s time to put it together and show everybody what we’re made of,” he said.

“On the guy’s side, it’s just fine-tuning some things, learning to play a little bit faster, a little bit harder so we can return to where we want to and take it.”

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