Lady Panthers win first district championship in soccer

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Kyla Boliek (#11) was a key player in the Lady Panthers’ win over Georgetown Gateway Preparatory last Friday. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By PAUL LIVENGOOD

Liberty Hill entered its last game with one goal in mind — win, and the district title went home with the Lady Panthers.

Liberty Hill and Salado were tied for first place at 10-1 going into Tuesday night’s game, but the Lady Panthers held the tiebreaker with a 3-2 overtime win at the Lady Eagles’ home field earlier this season.

All the Lady Panthers had to do was win on Tuesday night, and they would be district champions. Head Coach Darren Bauer and the girls controlled their own destiny, taking care of business with a 10-0 win over the Little River Academy Lady Bumblebees at Academy High School to take the district title.

“It’s great for the girls,” Bauer said. “We’ve worked hard for a couple years on (winning the district championship). I know we are still young, but a lot of programs work a long time to get one district title. So, it’s just a testament to all the work the girls have put in, all the sweat and tears and everything else.”

Emma Hofmann led the way for the Lady Panthers with a hat trick in the matchup—the second hat trick of her career and first this season.

“It feels really good,” Hofmann said of her strong performance. “I have a problem with mental blocks sometimes and sort of the fear of messing up. It felt really good to just have fun and play tonight because that’s when I play best, and now going into playoffs, it’s easier to remember what I’m capable of. Be more confident going forward.”

Kyla Boliek (2), Maddie Dubie (2), Kaitlyn Shutze, Brianna Stark, and Courtney Peterson all added goals to the 10-goal scoring clinic, as well.

Little River Academy never gave Liberty Hill a scare at any point. The majority of the game was played on the Liberty Hill attacking half. Freshman goalkeeper Miranda Durkin only faced one shot on goal the entire game — a 40-yard free kick from a Lady Bumblebee midfielder that fell right into Durkin’s arms.

Durkin is now 6-2 as a starter for the Lady Panthers this season, including five shutout performances.

Bauer said after last week’s victory against Jarrell that the Georgetown Gateway Preparatory Lady Gators would be a tough outing, despite defeating them 11-0 in the first matchup on Jan. 24 at home.

Bauer was right.

The Lady Panthers won 2-1 over the Lady Gators last Friday, March 10, but not before a second half scare.

At McMaster Field 102 in Georgetown, Liberty Hill and Georgetown Gateway played a much more competitive game than they did a month and a half ago. A lot had changed since the last matchup. The Lady Panthers were 2-5 at the time, coming off their first blowout victory after winning 7-0 over Pleasanton. Conversely, the Lady Gators were 3-0 when they walked on the pitch at Panther Stadium in their first meeting.

The Lady Panthers failed to score a single goal on the Lady Gators in the first half on Friday night, after scoring five goals during the first half in their previous meeting. Bauer gave kudos to Gateway’s strategy, but also sensed something was wrong with the way his team started the game.

“Gateway came out with a game plan that worked and took away some things we like to try and do, but we were also not very sharp or ready to play,” Bauer said.

Georgetown Gateway junior Julie Villatoro found the net first—scoring her 16th goal of the year—six minutes into the second half. Liberty Hill trailed for the first time in 480 minutes of gameplay, dating back to the Lady Panthers’ Feb. 10 match against Burnet.

Nearly 20 minutes later, Liberty Hill responded with an unassisted goal via the team’s leading scorer, senior midfielder Gaby Garcia. Liberty Hill and Georgetown Gateway would fight tooth and nail every second for the rest of the game.

With 10 seconds remaining, Boliek found Miriam Powell, who finished off the Lady Gators in dramatic fashion. Boliek said the final moments of the game were nerve racking as she watched her teammate set up her shot.

“It was stressful,” Boliek said. “I was thinking—because I passed her the ball—I was thinking ‘oh gosh, I hope she doesn’t miss.’”

Liberty Hill found a way to win despite Bauer saying “everyone was off their game in some way.”

With the regular season finally over, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers will face the fourth-place finisher in 4A region IV district 26, the Gonzales Lady Apaches, in the first round of the playoffs. The date and time of the match has yet to be determined.

“We got seven more games,” Bauer said. “Plain and simple. Seven more—that’s where we are going.”

Seven wins from here on out would secure Liberty Hill its first girls soccer state championship in school history.

Paul@LHIndependent.com

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