Lady Panther soccer starts after-school practice

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By KEITH SPARKS

Offseason workouts for the Panther girls soccer program may have started on August 1, but to Head Coach Darren Bauer, the offseason began immediately after last year’s second-round playoff exit against Boerne.

“For me, offseason started after our last game last year,” Bauer said. “A lot of coaches like to give people time off, but my belief is that once your season is done, you’re preparing for next year already. I think that mentality kind of helps us out.”

Officially, the offseason for the Lady Panthers began on August 1, and ran through Nov. 25. In-season after-school practices just began last Monday, Nov. 28.

During the offseason, the Panthers focused more heavily on weight training and fitness exercises. As of last week, their focus shifted toward more team oriented tactical drills, aiming to add some new looks, offensively, in order to keep their opponents guessing from one season to the next.

“I like to switch it up,” Bauer said. “I don’t like being predictable. I don’t like teams knowing what we’re going to do, so we try to switch it up and find new tactical ways to break down other teams.”

From year to year, the girls may opt to play on the same select team during the offseason, or they may play for different teams, depending on each player’s circumstance. This year, the majority of the team opted to play together with the Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association. That decision, according to Coach Bauer, could very well pay dividends for the team this season.

“I think the girls realized that they needed to play together more,” Bauer said. “That’s kind of why they got together and played select soccer this summer together. We were a little bit technically behind some other teams last year, but we fixed that. We were working hard on that, but the big thing was the chemistry, and I stressed that to them, that we had to get better chemistry. Knowing where your teammates are going to be just naturally makes the game a whole lot easier.”

The Lady Panthers finished second in the district standings last year, with a final overall record of 15-9, 9-3 in district play. Four of their nine losses on the season were to Salado and Boerne.

“They were tough losses against good teams,” Bauer said, “but the second round is not where we want to be. The girls don’t want to be there, even though they know that on that day they probably lost to the better team. Our aspirations are a lot higher than that.”

Liberty Hill finished behind Salado in the district standings last year, losing by a score of 2-0 in their first matchup and 1-0 in their second. Salado finished with an undefeated 12-0 district record and a 26-2 record, overall. Coach Bauer expects Salado to be near the top once again this season, but hopes to see a couple more losses on their record on behalf of the Lady Panthers.

“They’re kind of our nemesis on both the guys and girls side,” Bauer said of Salado. “They’re always our rival, but I think we got ‘em this year.”

The Liberty Hill girls varsity soccer team will play its first scrimmage of the season against Lanier on Thursday, Dec. 29 at home at 11 a.m., followed by scrimmages at Lorena and Hutto. Their first official game of the season will take place on Jan. 6, 2017, as part of the Centex Tournament at Killeen High School.

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