Lady Panthers hope to continue soccer success of 2018

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By Lance Catchings

Last season, the varsity girls’ soccer team had unprecedented success, going 27-3 overall with a perfect 8-0 record in district play en route to another district title.

It took a double overtime loss that went to penalty kicks against eventual state champion Midlothian-Heritage to end their season in the State Semifinals. When Head Coach Darren Bauer and his team think back to all the success they had last season, they still believe it should have been more.

“I have mixed emotions about last season,” Bauer said. “The girls know that it was right there for us, but you can’t be upset. We played well, and Midlothian-Heritage was a good team, so we know we are still right there. The great thing is we are excited for this year and to get back.”

Bauer graduated only three seniors from the state semifinalists last year. Brianna Stark, Courtney Peterson and Kaitlyn Schutze were not a large senior class for the program, but their impact was undeniable. The previous underclassmen will have to step up to push the pace if the team wants to improve on what they accomplished last season.

“We still have some holes to fill,” Bauer said. “As a coach, we always must get better every year. We lose two starters and three seniors total with Schutze coming off the bench last year. They were big contributors for us last season, and this year, we have had some freshmen and sophomores come in from last year and step up. I think we have our holes filled. It is just about getting on the same page again. Everyone knows we have the potential, but the issue we must face is everyone working hard even in the games we know we should win easily. Complacency is the biggest enemy of success. I think we have built a schedule this year that will do that before we open district. The younger girls now know after playing Heritage and losing in the Semifinals, the younger girls now know and understand more than they did last year.”

Where does a team that scored the most goals in the state and allowed the fewest improve? Bauer believes it comes from doing the little things well day-in and day-out.

“I can see it in their faces sometimes when I say certain things,” Bauer said. “If I say we need to make our defense better, they may say we only allowed seven goals last year. I would respond with well this year lets only allows six. On the opposite side, we scored the most goals in the state, so to that I say let’s score more. We must tighten up on both ends. We have changed some things up to make us more dynamic offensively. Coach Munger and I have looked at film and feel we can be more dynamic on offense. We need to solidify our defense and make sure we are on the same page.”

When it comes to returning talent, Liberty Hill’s roster is loaded. The Panthers will return the district MVP and co-defensive player of the year in seniors Brooke Briscoe and Kyla Boliek. Sophomores Samantha Carter and Madi Fuller also return. As freshmen, Carter was named district goalie of the year and Fuller was the co-newcomer of the year.

“For Kyla and Brooke as seniors, this year I expect them to lead a lot,” Bauer said. “We also have sophomores like Bryden Bourgeios, Abigail Janicek and Madi Fuller that will need to step up and lead for us, as well. Whether you have a captain’s role or not, if you’re going to be a big player, you need to lead by example, as well. There are more than those five names, but those five are kind of how we run. We have more seniors this year, but our underclassmen classes are loaded.”

This season, to kick off the year, Bauer is hosting the inaugural Panther Cup Soccer Tournament at Panther Stadium. The tournament will be held Jan. 3-5, and Bauer pulled no punches when scheduling the opposition. The biggest name on the schedule for Liberty Hill is Midlothian-Heritage, who will come to the Panther Cup as the defending State Champions.

“This is our inaugural season for The Panther Cup, and we will find out early where we are at,” Bauer said. “I always wanted to host a tournament, but I didn’t want to create one that was lackluster. When I sent out emails for it, I only sent them out to certain teams. If there were a couple of teams I couldn’t get, then we weren’t going to have it. I wanted to create a high-profile, top-notch 4A tournament. Midlothian-Heritage, Brownwood, Fredericksburg and Waco La Vega are all teams that went deep in the playoffs last season. We only had five teams and Leander wanted to join in, so we tossed in a 6A team. It’s not that we want to get revenge on Heritage, it is that we want our pre-district schedule to be very good. It will be a fun tournament.”

The non-district schedule does not get any easier after that. Liberty Hill will travel to the Mav Raider Invitational in Round Rock and then face Wimberley and Cedar Creek before opening district play.

After realignment, Liberty Hill will now compete in District 27-4A. It is an eight-team district comprised of Jarrell, Florence, Stephenville, Little River Academy, Burnet, Lampasas, Salado and Liberty Hill. Salado returns to the same district as Liberty Hill after a two-year absence, but the expectations remain the same.

“Our expectations are always the same, which is nothing less than a district championship,” Bauer said. “We must go out there and take care of business. These teams can catch you, and every game you must go out there and win it. Our goal is a district title, just like every year. You can have all the ideas in your head, but if you don’t execute, you can get beat.”

Liberty Hill scrimmaged Cedar Ridge on Dec. 28 and Leander on Dec. 31. The Panthers beat Cedar Ridge 3-0 and played Leander to a 2-2 draw.

“It was great preparation for the upcoming season, starting on Thursday with the first Panther Cup,” Bauer said.

The varsity girls will open the Panther Cup Thursday at noon against Fredericksburg, followed by a 4 p.m. match against Waco La Vega. Friday at 2 p.m., the girls will face defending state champions Midlothian Heritage. Saturday, the team closes out Panther Cup play with an 8 a.m. match against Brownwood.

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