By Lance Catchings
Junior Colton Walter has eagerly awaited soccer season since the team lost in the third round of the playoffs last year. This year, the 5’11” midfielder is stepping into more of a leadership role, which his coach said is much needed.
“Colton has taken on a big leadership role, along with senior Bryce Stratton,” said Liberty Hill Head Soccer Coach Darren Bauer. “He has matured into a great player and will help us succeed this year. His ability to play multiple positions and move where we need him is a huge advantage.”
Walter knew there were big shoes to fill this season, but he and his teammates are up for the challenge.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year, so we have been building a new lineup and new formations this year,” Walter said. “Our goal this year is to make it further than we did in the playoffs last year. We feel like we have a lot better chance to do that this year. Last season, we only lost one district game and placed second, overall, and we are looking to improve that this year.”
Walter’s unique versatility is what makes him such a weapon on the field for the Panthers. Although he enjoys scoring goals, when his coach asked him to move to a defensive position, he didn’t hesitate.
“Last year, I played attacking midfielder, and to start this year, Coach Bauer asked me to play center back,” Walter said. “We didn’t have anyone to play that position, so I told him I would do it. Since then, we have had a few games under our belt, and I will probably move back to attacking midfield. As an attacking midfielder, I actually get to contribute to the offensive attack and help the team score goals. I still work defense, but I get to move forward with the attack. I like defending, but I also like having the opportunity to put goals on the board.”
Walter has played soccer since before he can remember, and owes it to his parents for introducing him to the game early on.
“When I was younger, I played center back, so I was a little familiar with the position,” he said. “Growing up, I had played center back, and Coach Bauer knew I could do it, so he put me back there. I’ve been playing soccer my whole life. My parents put me in soccer at a young age, and I have played ever since. I like how the game is continuous and doesn’t stop. There are a lot of things you can’t just get good at. To be good at soccer, it takes a lot of practice, and you have to put in a lot of work.”
With so many holes to fill on the defensive side, Walter admits he didn’t know what the strategy would be, but he does believe in his teammates and their hard work to become better.
“We lost a lot of defenders from last year, so we really had no idea who would play on the defensive end for us this year,” he said. “The good thing for us is we have a lot of players stepping up to the challenge. We have been using the games we have played to switch things up for us to see what works best.”
The Panthers are currently 2-2-1 on the season. The two losses have come against Waco and Stephenville, both very talented teams. Walter is pleased with the progress the Panthers are making and believes by the time district play rolls around, the team will be ready.
“We knew Waco was a really good team, and our 4-2 loss is the closest score we’ve had with them since I have been here,” he said. “They were very talented, but there were also some things we could have improved on in that game. We got back-to-back wins after that, and it felt good to get back to what we were used to doing. There are still things we need to work on and improve so we can play like that all the time, but it felt good to get those wins. The Stephenville game was a very intense game. It was a home game and we wanted to show our fans what we could do. It was a physical game, which had everyone ready to play.
The Panthers will compete at the Wimberley Tournament Jan. 18- 20. Walter said, right now, the team is trying to get healthy and keep focus on its ultimate goal.
“Right now, we have a lot of injuries, so we are just trying to get everyone healthy,” he said. “We have the Wimberley Tournament coming up, and we just try to focus on ourselves. We know what we need to do and we try to focus on us and playing the best soccer we can. We want to go undefeated in district. That is the goal every year, and it does not change.”