LHHS set to take on Cameron Yoe in bi-district soccer playoff
By Lance Catchings
Senior Panther Courtney Peterson had no idea how her senior soccer season would go when the year started. She had an idea of what she wanted, but with half a roster’s worth of empty spots, she was a little apprehensive.
“I was absolutely a little worried at the very beginning,” Peterson said. “Coach (Darren) Bauer told us we had some really good players coming up and the team would be good. To see the freshmen after they started practicing and playing, we then saw there was a lot of potential on this team. We thought we could make it really far if we all work towards the same goal. It was exciting to recognize that this could be the year to bring it all the way.”
Peterson and her teammates have come a long way since filling out that roster with incoming freshmen, who now have a full regular season under their belt. The girls’ soccer team defeated Vista Ridge 5-1 last Friday in their final exhibition game of the season to end the year with a 22-2 overall record.
“I think, having this many freshmen come in, our season went really well,” Peterson said. “We bonded and became closer. There are a lot of talented girls on the team, and that helps a lot, too. I didn’t know any freshmen before the season started, so I met them all once school started.”
Peterson said after the initial acquaintances with her new freshman teammates, she and the upperclassmen realized early in the season they potentially had something special.
“The first tournament, we played against those larger 6A schools and competed and kept up with them,” she said. “We actually got second place in that tournament, and it was a big moment for us. We were playing schools above our classification and we competed well. That was the moment we thought we had the potential to be really good. We really got the chance to see what we could do when everyone really works together.”
As the team prepares to enter postseason play, their defense will continue to be their calling card. Liberty Hill has posted 19 shutouts so far this season in 24 games.
“Originally, we didn’t know our defense would be that good, because we were moving people around to different positions,” Peterson said. “We were still trying to figure out where everyone was playing around that time. Once we found our setup and how it worked, everything kind of fell into place for us.”
Although she and her teammates are happy with what they have accomplished to this point, they realize how difficult the road ahead may be. Liberty Hill opens bi-district play Thursday night against Cameron Yoe.
“It was really exciting going through and finishing district undefeated, but now is where the real challenge starts,” Peterson said. “Playing against other people at our skill level in the playoffs, we can push ourselves and see what our team can do when we come together. This is where we need to realize that we can’t slack off. We are no longer playing teams where the score will be something like 10-0 every time. This is where we have to connect passes and make the right decisions. That is one of our main goals is making sure we are playing up to our own standard.”
For many of the players on the team, this will be the first postseason UIL action of their careers, but Peterson has faith in her teammates, experienced or not.
“One of the challenges for our underclassmen will be if we lose, we are done mentality,” she said. “For the seniors, there is no next season to get it right. We want this to be the year that we go all the way to State. We want to go further than we have ever been before. One of the bigger challenges will also be picking up where we left off at the beginning of the season, playing more talented teams.”
Rather than believe that inexperience could be a weakness, Peterson and her teammates see it as a strength to bring them closer during their playoff run.
“It has been a really awesome season so far,” she said. “Our record is impressive alone, but the way that we play together and our closeness bonds the team. We have so many different class levels on this team and everyone brings different strengths to combine and make one team. We have the motto of ‘Stay together and trust everyone.’ That is really what our team is about. We come together and everyone brings different strengths and weaknesses that we build on and encourage each other.”
Liberty Hill will enter the game against Cameron Yoe as the favorite, but their only goal is to focus on themselves and play to their own standard. Peterson said no matter what happens in the playoffs, she is thankful for her time in the Liberty Hill soccer program.
“I love all of my teammates and, of course, Coach Bauer,” she said. “He works with our skills on the field, but he is also encouraging outside of soccer. He helps us build skills that we can use in the future that help build our character. To me, that is such an important part of this program. Building life skills and team skills while we become closer together to reach our goal is amazing.”
The Panthers’ bi-district playoff game against Cameron Yoe will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at Cameron Yoe High School.