PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Fuller finishing strong at the net in sophomore season

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By Lance Catchings

As a freshman last season, Madi Fuller burst onto the Liberty Hill soccer scene and was an immediate contributor that helped the team reach the State Semifinals. Fuller scored a staggering 25 goals during her freshman season and added another 10 assists.

Through 13 games this year, she has scored eight goals and already surpassed her season total of assists from last season with 12. Head Coach Darren Bauer said much of her success comes from her character and positive attitude.

“Last year, we saw her speed, work ethic and what she could do,” Bauer said. “This year, she has taken what we wanted her to do and worked on it all year long in club soccer. She has become more dynamic this season. Her first touch is a lot better, her passing is a lot better, her speed and shooting on top of it is making her a complete player. It is hard to mark players like that defensively. She will give you everything she has no matter what she is doing, and that is something that you can’t teach or coach. That is all about her, her personality and what she believes in.”

The 16-year-old forward tried to take everything she learned last year and apply it to how she could improve on the field.

“My biggest takeaway from last season was how to transition and work with other people,” Fuller said. “As freshmen, we came in and had to learn how to play with the upperclassmen and work together. Adjusting to varsity play last season was kind of hard. I tried to take it slow and get used to it as I moved throughout the season.

“My focus coming into this season was to work on my touches. I wanted to try to get everything down perfect. Coach Bauer gave me some things to work on, and I wanted to perfect those. I wanted to try my hardest to connect successfully on passes and focus on the game,” she said.

Now, as a sophomore, Fuller is sharing what she has learned with her younger teammates to help get them up to speed.

“I think as a team, we adjusted to this season and opened well,” she said. “There were times where we were off, but we got back to our normal play and were able to win some games. I see now how difficult it can be to integrate freshman players, and I was one last season. They are getting used to how we play, but it takes some time. It has been easy teaching them, and they learn from us. My teammate, Emma Stephens, mirrors me a little bit. She is a younger version of me. She is doing great so far. She is learning how to go to goal instead of going to the corner flag. She is taking everything positive and has been great so far.”

Fuller is an offensive threat from all over the field. She admits that any time she is in the game, her thoughts are on scoring.

“I try my hardest to go to the goal all the time,” she said. “I sometimes play midfield, and my mind is still focused on scoring no matter what. That is the main point. I just want to go forward, push hard, work with my teammates and have a positive mindset.”

It is not uncommon to see Fuller using her speed up the sideline on a fast break to the goalie any given game night.

“I use my speed a lot in games,” she said. “I usually get the ball and then quickly push it out ahead of me. I try to run past the defense to get a head start, and you just take off and hope for the best. When I have a fast break with me and the goalie, the only thing going through my head is that I need to score. I need to get that ball in the net as fast as possible to make my teammates and Coach Bauer proud.”

The Panthers currently sit in first place at 4-0 in district play. Fuller said she couldn’t be happier for how they have come together as a group.

“I am so proud of how our team turned out this year,” she said. “We have learned from our mistakes so much, and we are like a family. We have our bond, we are friends and it is amazing to be playing soccer with these girls. I am so proud of our freshmen and all the sophomores that came back this year. The seniors are doing an amazing job with their last season, as well.”

Fuller is focused on a return trip to the State Tournament, so when it comes to district play, her philosophy is simple.

“Our approach to our district is very simple,” she said. “Win them all, get them over with and go to playoffs.”

Fuller and the rest of her teammates travel to Burnet Friday night for the traditional rivalry match. They follow that by hosting Lampasas next Tuesday. Both games are scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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