LHHS soccer beats Jarrell to go 8-2 in district

Gabriel Hernandez (#15) wins the 50/50 ball against the Jarrell defender. The freshman has two goals so far this season. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Gabriel Hernandez (#15) wins the 50/50 ball against the Jarrell defender. The freshman has two goals so far this season. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By Paul Livengood

Entering last Friday’s match with the Jarrell Cougars, the Panthers were winners of eight of their last nine games. On March 3rd, they made that nine out of 10.

Liberty Hill defeated Jarrell for the second time this season by a final score of 5-0. The Panthers took care of business at home in early February, winning 6-0. Friday was the Panthers’ opportunity to close the series on the road, and they delivered. Bauer was pleased with his team’s play.

“We played pretty well,” Bauer said. “We created several scoring chances, we possessed at times, and our defensive pressure was pretty good. At times, we got a little sloppy, but that happens when we are controlling the game pretty handily and everyone wants their chance to score.”

Liberty Hill went into halftime with a 2-0 lead, and the sloppiness started to show. Bauer wants the boys to continue to stay sharp when they have their opponent backed up against the wall.

“Our main concern is finishing our chances when we are in that type of situation, up 3-0 or so,” Bauer said. “We still want to be sharp in our play. We also look to get younger guys into the game and see what the next level is about and get them comfortable for next year or if their number is called in a tight game.”

One consistency the Panthers have had lately, however, is the finishing ability of first-year varsity junior Jordan Schwingendorf. Schwingendorf has scored a goal in each of the past four games, and leads the team with 10 goals on the year.

“Jordan has been finishing great the past few games,” Bauer said of his junior forward. “He has been in the right place at the right time, and has been putting away his opportunities.”

Pedro Silva, senior forward, added two goals of his own, while Colton Walter and Bryce Stratton each had one goal. Slade Cummins, Walter, Dawson Carroll, and Schwingendorf all assisted goals versus the Cougars.

Parker Sargent, junior goalkeeper, got the start and played a complete game. Sargent recorded only one save in 80 minutes—their opponent’s only shot on goal.

Sargent has saved every shot on goal that’s come his way in the past six wins, but only averages 2.33 saves per game, due in large part to the Panthers’ stellar defense. Bauer remains confident in his goaltender’s readiness for the playoffs, despite receiving little to no action lately.

“Parker will be ready,” Bauer said. “Our keepers know that they must remain sharp at all times. The downfall of playing on a team that competes at a higher level than the competition is that the keeper is going to get minimum touches. Every year I get a comment from the keepers about how it is boring back there, and that is the way I like it. If I had it my way they would never touch the ball at all. It is really just a sign that we are playing well as a team and executing well.”

Liberty Hill’s competition is about to ramp back up, however. Friday night, the Panthers host the Alvarado Indians, who come to Liberty Hill with a 14-4 overall record, 9-2 district record, and 14th spot in the MaxPreps.com 4A state rankings. Liberty Hill is ranked 27th in 4A.

The win streak is not on Bauer’s mind, nor the team’s, however. Their focus is on being ready for the postseason, and strong opponents like Alvarado help prepare the Panthers for that.

“Not that concerned with the win streak,” Bauer said. “Alvarado and Harker Heights are going to be some of the tougher competition we have seen this year. My concern is keeping our edge and performing as a team as the playoffs start.”

Bauer has strategically placed these tougher matchups at the beginning and end of the season. Early on, the Panthers played a plethora of 5A and 6A teams. They lost a good number of them (seven of their first 10 to be exact), but it led to the fast-pace play that has led to an 8-2 district record thus far.

“I like to make sure we are battle tested at the beginning and at the end of the season,” Bauer said. “The beginning allows us to work on ideas and learn how to execute in pressure situations, and at the end it keeps our minds sharp and ready for the playoffs.”

The UIL playoffs are right around the corner, starting March 23rd.