By Paul Livengood
Liberty Hill lost 1-0 to Jarrell the last time the two played soccer in Panther Stadium. The Lady Panthers were out to avenge their home field and accomplished that and then some, defeating the Cougars 6-0 Tuesday night.
“Jarrell pressed really well in the middle and caused some problems at times with our possession,” Head Coach Darren Bauer said. “But we started to move the ball a little faster and we fixed those issues.”
Kyla Boliek, sophomore forward, broke the seal for the Panthers midway through the first. Emma Hofmann, senior midfielder, found the back of the net for her fifth and sixth goals of the season. Hofmann and Boliek each finished the match with two goals.
Liberty Hill led 2-0 at the break.
Briana Stark, junior midfielder, began the second half for the Panthers by putting pressure on the Jarrell keeper. Stark put a shot on goal from nearly 25 yards away, hit the crossbar, and the ball ricocheted out to the foot of Payton Swieczkowski, senior forward, who fired a first touch rocket from outside the 18-yard box.
After Hofmann and Boliek both found the back of the net again, Liberty Hill led 5-0. Mackenzy Turner then scored the final goal for the Panthers, taking advantage of a shot fired into the box, which she deflected with her left foot into the goal.
The Lady Panthers held on the rest of the way to complete their fifth shutout of the season.
Last Friday, Feb. 3, the Lady Panthers faced Leander Glenn, whose soccer program is in its first year.
“Preparing for a new team is really no different for us,” Bauer said. “We mainly focus on our execution and defensive shape. Sometimes you may change some things according to the other team, but in soccer you want to force the other team to play your way.”
The Panthers took Bauer’s advice and handled the Grizzlies with ease, winning by a final score of 14-0.
The pressure and pace was set early by Liberty Hill. If Leander Glenn had any wishes of competing, it was going to have to do so at 1,000 miles an hour.
The struggles and growing pains for a young program in its inaugural season showed early, as the Panthers opened a 3-0 lead in the opening five minutes of the game. The Grizzlies stopped the bleeding momentarily by holding a high backline and drawing numerous offside penalties, but the Panthers’ pressure paid dividends throughout the first half.
“We started off on the right foot, moving the ball well and finding good passing angles, and we put our shots on goal well for the first five minutes,” Bauer said.
By halftime, Liberty Hill led 8-0 and the game was all but over. Leander Glenn had spent next to no time in their offensive third and were struggling to get the ball past midfield the entire game.
The second half wasn’t too different from the first. Liberty Hill stayed on the prowl, and scored six second half goals to end the game with the double-digit win.
Two players had five-plus points for the Panthers: Gaby Garcia, senior midfielder, scored a hat trick and added two assists to give her eight points for the match and the player of the game honors on MaxPreps.com. Swieczkowski recorded two goals and two assists to add six points to her season total.
Courtney Peterson, junior right back, and Hofmann scored two goals each. Stark, Haylie Cassady, Kassidy Freeman, Kelsey Moore, and Claudia Fuenmayor all scored one goal. Alex Svetlik, Boliek, and Turner all recorded assists for the Panthers.
Even in a 14-0 victory, Bauer says the team can still improve.
“We learned that we are becoming more confident in our tactics and trusting each other more and more each game,” Bauer said. “We also learned that while we did play well, there are still some times we have to finish better.”
Liberty Hill holds a 5-7 overall record and 3-1 in district, with their lone district loss coming at the hands of Burnet in the first-ever game played between the two soccer programs.
“The district games are more intense to me,” Bauer said. “The non-district games we are mainly worried about working on certain areas of our game, and we know the outcome really doesn’t affect our playoff bid. The district games are more about execution and getting right when the game really matters.”
The Lady Panthers play their first-ever home soccer game against Burnet on Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m. in Panther Stadium.