By LANCE CATCHINGS
The Liberty Hill varsity girls’ soccer season is officially underway, as the Lady Panthers competed in two scrimmages over the holiday break, beating the Wimberley Lady Texans on Tuesday, and tying the Leander Lady Lions on Dec. 29.
After a cancellation of the Robinson Tournament due to teams pulling out of the competition because of inclement weather, the Lady Panthers traveled to Wimberley this week for their final scrimmage of the season, beating the Lady Texans by a final score of 1-0. The lone goal of the game was scored by Liberty Hill’s Brooke Briscoe on an assist from Abby Janicek.
While he wasn’t particularly pleased with the Lady Panthers’ performance in the first half, Head Coach Darren Bauer was encouraged by their improvement after halftime.
“In the first half, we were a little slow and not as sharp as we wanted to be,” Bauer said. “It wasn’t terrible, but we do have high expectations. The first half was kind of sloppy. In the second half, we cleaned it up and played really well. We created a lot more chances on goal, but just couldn’t finish on some of them.”
Scrimmages are a time to work on mistakes and improve in a game-like setting, and Bauer said he’s already seen growth between the two scrimmages.
“I felt it was a step forward from the Leander game,” he said. “We created more chances and got the one goal to win it for us. The freshmen were not as nervous and started to get a feel for it. The girls are getting to know each other more and starting to click, which is a good sign heading into the season.”
Briscoe, who Bauer named as a player to watch this season, made her presence on the field known.
“The offense, in general, took a step forward from Friday’s game against Leander,” he said. “Brooke played pretty well, but there are some things she needs to work on here and there. She was definitely a big catalyst for our offense. The freshmen made some better runs, and it was definitely a step forward for us.”
On Dec. 29, the team traveled to Leander and battled in their first scrimmage of the season to a scoreless tie. Bauer was impressed with his team’s defensive performance, but explained that he’d like for them to get more chances on the offensive end, which they did in their second scrimmage.
“Our defensive strength was really good against Leander,” Bauer said. “We didn’t allow them many chances to score anything. The chances that they did create were off of our mistakes. We have some things we need to work on and sharpen out. For the most part, they didn’t really create anything and I was happy with that. The thing we really need to work on from that scrimmage is connecting up top. We didn’t create many chances. We had opportunities, but we just weren’t on the same page. If we can get on the same page and connect some opportunities up top we would have been fine in that game.”
The Lady Panthers have a number of freshmen in key positions this season, and their scrimmage against Leander was the first varsity action for many of those young players.
“You could tell the freshmen had some nerves in them,” Bauer said. “It was their first high school game playing against some older girls. They had some nerves, and I think that affected how we played. As we move forward and they get a few more games under their belt, they should be fine from here on out.”
The Lady Panthers will travel to Killeen this weekend to compete in the CenTex Tournament, the focus of which Bauer said will be on continuing their defensive consistency.
“The big thing for us entering the CenTex Tournament is to keep playing defensively sound,” he said. “In the two scrimmages, we didn’t allow a goal. We want to keep our defense solid and give the other team very few chances. If we can do that, I think we will take some steps forward on offense and it will all come together.”
The competition at the tournament will be stiff, but Bauer said it should be a good measuring stick for his players to face quality opponents.
“The Shoemaker game will be good for us, because they are usually more athletic,” he said. “If we can deal with some of these schools’ athleticism, that will be a good test for us. The Salado game is a rivalry game. Even though they moved out of our district, it will still be a battle for us. It will be a good test to see where we are at in our region. Salado is usually up there, as is Wimberley, who we already played.”
On Friday, the Lady Panthers will play their first two games of the CenTex Tournament in Killeen against Austin Shoemaker at 1 p.m. and Salado at 5 p.m. On Saturday, they’ll play their final game of the tournament against Hyde Park at 9:30 a.m.