PANTHER OF THE WEEK: Senior Boliek stepping up as leader in final season

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By Lance Catchings

Kyla Boliek was disappointed after last season’s playoff loss for the Panther soccer team. The defensive specialist played her heart out, but said some things do not end the way you want them to, deserved or not.

“At the end of season last year, I had a mix of emotions between sadness, anger and frustration,” Boliek said. “I thought we deserved to win that game, because we worked very hard for it. All the seniors last year I had been with for three years, and we had a good bond, so it was a tough way to go out.”

This year, the senior came into the season not so much focused on other opponents as she was focused on what she could do to improve herself.

“I wanted to improve on being a leader coming into this season,” Boliek said. “Last year, I was a captain, but last year, I reverted to letting the other two senior captains be more of the leaders. This year, I am trying to be more of a leader and help with the younger group that has come up and played.”

The four-year letterman knows what it takes to make a strong defense, and she has helped set the tone this season. Liberty Hill has posted 15 shutouts this season, and Boliek is a big reason why. With many eyes on the soccer program in hopes that they make a repeat trip to the State Tournament, Boliek remains calm and collected.

“I feel this year we have a very strong defense,” she said. “We don’t seem to look like we are super strong and can push players off the ball because of our size, but we know how to defend and win a ball. I don’t feel I had any added pressure coming into this season. I enjoy being the leader and helping the rest of the team. It doesn’t feel like any more pressure than it was last year.”

Liberty Hill is 6-0 in district play, but Boliek said her team’s biggest challenge comes from within.

“I think we can go as far as we did last year, if not further,” she said. “We have exceptional players, and they all work hard. I think our biggest challenge this season will be against ourselves. Going through our district and not having the big competition, and not having to work as hard to win and play like we know how to play is a challenge. Going from that to playing tougher teams in the playoffs will be an adjustment, because we will have to work harder to beat those playoff teams.”

As the girls’ soccer team begins the second half of district play, Boliek is looking forward to what her team can accomplish.

“As we move through district, I am just trying to keep in mind the differences and how we play,” she said. “We have been working on different formations during district play and working on better ways to defend. If we keep working on those things, I think we will be in good position by the time playoffs start. I think we can improve on how we have competed. I still don’t believe we have played our best game yet.”

Head Coach Darren Bauer said Boliek was a great role model for her team last season, but she’s picked it up another notch as a senior.

“Kyla was a leader last year, but she has really stepped into that leadership role this season,” Bauer said. “She is more talkative on the field and at practice. At halftime of games, you can see how good of a leader she is, and her passion for the game shows. Being a senior, she really wants to take it all the way this year. I think that passion and that work ethic she has carries on down to the underclassmen. We could not ask for a much better role model for our younger girls.”

As he coaches her in her final season for the purple and gold, Bauer believes that Boliek has not even scratched the surface of her ability.

“She has been incredible for us for the past four years in this program,” he said. “She has grown so much as a player, and I can’t wait to see what she does in college. I think she is going to surprise herself and surprise some people at the next level.”

Boliek and the rest of her teammates open the second round of district play Friday night on the road against Jarrell. They host Florence the following Tuesday at home. Both game times are set for 7:30 p.m.

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