Lady Panther soccer wins 3 after 0-4 start

The Lady Panthers get amped up before their home game against Georgetown Gateway on Tuesday. Liberty Hill now holds a 3-5 overall record. (Shannon Hofmann)

The Lady Panthers get amped up before their home game against Georgetown Gateway on Tuesday. Liberty Hill now holds a 3-5 overall record. (Shannon Hofmann)

By Paul Livengood

The Lady Panthers started out the season 0-4. Liberty Hill was held scoreless in those four games. Since then, the Lady Panthers have scored 20 goals.

Tuesday evening, the girls matched up with the Georgetown Gateway Gators for 80 minutes.

The Gators came out of the gate pressuring deep downfield, but the Panthers were able to evade the Gators’ press and take advantage of the backline.

At halftime, Liberty Hill led Georgetown Gateway 5-0.

“We’ve been working a lot of possession—a lot of runs and stuff like that,” Head Coach Darren Bauer said. “Things are starting to click more and more. Our passes were on today, our runs were on today and we worked hard. And honestly, if our passes are on and we are working, it’s going to be tough to beat us no matter who you are. Today, things were just clicking. We had good shots and good finishes. Just people attacking the goal, which we have been struggling with.”

The Gators made an adjustment and laid off the goalkeeper in the second half. Georgetown Gateway’s new strategy was to take away Liberty Hill goalkeeper Mackenzy Turner’s passing options. The strategy proved ineffective as Turner played the ball downfield and used her ball skills to set up her teammates with scoring opportunities.

Bauer was pleased with his goalkeeper’s performance.

“Last year, we asked her to step up a lot, and we asked her to start learning to play with her feet a lot more because she has the ball skills to do it,” Bauer said. “This year she’s taken that role on. It’s a different weapon. A lot of teams can’t use their goalkeeper to possess. The fact that we have that and if we are trying to possess and they are pressing in the midfield, then we can just turn around and play our goalkeeper to stretch it back out. Today, I thought she played well and made good decisions and was calm on the ball when she got it. That’s what we want.”

After 80 minutes, the Panthers lit up the scoreboard on the Gators, defeating them 11-0.

Kyla Boliek, Kassidy Freeman, Emma Hofmann, and Alex Svetlik all had two goals apiece. Freeman nearly had a hat trick, but one of the goals she could have potentially put away bounced off the Gators’ goalkeeper’s chest and trickled in for an own goal.

Kendal James and Gaby Garcia each added one goal to the Panthers’ scoring clinic.

The offense has turned around 180 degrees since the beginning of the season.

“It’s great because if you look at our first—definitely our first four but maybe our first five games—I don’t think we scored a goal,” Bauer said. “So, it’s great to start having that offense and that was our problem. The fact that these last two games have really broke out offensively is nice.”

Due to the strong first-half offensive showing, Bauer started shuffling around his players to different spots on the field in the second half. Those who normally play up front got some playing time on the backline and vice versa.

Bauer has confidence that his players can be multifaceted, and play wherever he puts them.

“Our varsity team isn’t deep anyways,” Bauer said. “We only have three subs. We have a couple injuries here and there. But I have confidence in a lot of these girls to play multiple positions. Especially when you get up, give girls a chance to score that usually don’t get the chance. Score line affects that, but they also need to get used to playing in different spots.”

Eagle Classic

Last weekend, the Lady Panthers traveled to Salado High School to take part in the Eagle Classic tournament, where the team would play Ellison, Wimberley and Pleasanton.

Liberty Hill broke its winless streak against Ellison, defeating the Eagles 2-0.

“They were glad to finally get that win, but they were much more excited about the number of opportunities we created with the changes we made,” Bauer said. “They know this is a long season and it does not really matter about how you are playing now, but how you are playing at the end of the season.”

Svetlik, senior midfielder, scored the first goal of the season. The Lady Panthers created a chance on goal in their box and the ball was blocked and bounced out to Svetlik and she ripped a shot to the bottom left corner.

The second goal came off a corner set piece taken by Svetlik. The senior sent the ball into the box, where it was headed in by Brianna Stark, junior midfielder.

Wimberley was next up for Liberty Hill. The Panthers played the Texans in what Bauer described as “a game that was pretty well matched.” He added that both teams possessed the ball and created multiple opportunities to score. The Texans just broke through and the Panthers did not.

Liberty Hill lost 1-0.

The Panthers bounced back from the loss and trounced Pleasanton 7-0. This game, in particular, along with their tournament play, in general, gave Liberty Hill the confidence boost it needed.

“They are just gaining confidence, they are becoming more comfortable with the ideas we are forcing on them and starting to create chances we were not before,” Bauer said.

Garcia recorded a hat trick against Pleasanton. Boliek scored two more goals, then Svetlik and Averi Stratton, senior forward, both scored one each. Stratton also recorded an assist in this game. James and freshman midfielder Kelsey Moore recorded two assists each and Maddie Dubie, sophomore midfielder, dished out an assist as well.

The Lady Panthers two-game win streak gives the squad a 3-5 record overall and a 1-0 district record.

Liberty Hill will seek revenge on the Wimberley Texans this Friday, Jan. 27 at 5:30 p.m.