By LANCE CATCHINGS
Sophomore Mason Shipley has stepped into a new role for the Liberty Hill varsity soccer team this season. Last season, as a freshman, he was a player that came off the bench. This season, he has stepped up as a starting midfielder and has not disappointed. In a win over Wimberley on Friday night, Shipley scored one of the Panthers’ four goals.
“As a freshman last year, I was on varsity but did not play as much,” Shipley said. “Becoming a starter this season has been great, and I take it very seriously. I want to do the best I can for my senior teammates and hopefully go to State this year. I want to do my part and try my hardest for the seniors, so they have a great season.”
The Panthers are currently 5-4-1 on the season and riding a three-game winning streak. Shipley said, although the start to the season was a little up and down, he and his teammates never lost faith in themselves.
“We’ve had two tournaments so far this season, which we did alright in,” he said. “I’ve scored in almost every game this season. I scored the winning goal in the Temple Tournament against Copperas Cove. We’ve done really well as a team, and I think we will do well in district this year. We have a new lineup, and the way Coach Bauer has us in new positions will be really good for us. In the tournaments, we play tougher teams than we do in district, which gets us ready for playoffs when they come around.”
Shipley and his teammates have focused on consistently coming out and playing strong every game.
“The mentality of the team during the Wimberley Tournament was to come out strong,” he said. “We played very good in a few of those games. In some of the games, we just didn’t play as good as we should have, and it cost us. The last game against Giddings, we tried our hardest and pulled out the win.”
Shipley believes one of the greatest assets this team has is senior leadership.
“We have a lot of seniors on our team, which is a big strength for us,” he said. “Bryce Stratton is one of our team leaders, and he is very motivational for us. The seniors tell us what we need to do, which impacts us younger players and helps before and during the game. They give us a lot of support, and I think that is really big for us. We have a new lineup this year, and Coach Bauer really put a lot of thought into it. I think it is better for us and will help us win more games and do better in playoffs. So far this season, we have done really well with the changes. For different positions, you have to be strong and fast. He put us where he thinks we need to be, and that has really helped us be successful.”
The Panthers pride themselves on playing stout defense, and that side of the ball has steadily improved all season.
“Defensively, we have showed continued improvement since the start of the season,” Shipley said. “Whenever we mess up on a game, we go over our mistakes in practice, and it helps us correct for the next game. We watch a lot of film, and that helped me a lot, because I had made a few mistakes. I was in football before soccer, so it took me a bit to get adjusted. After playing my first game and watching film, I got a lot better at what I was doing touch and passing wise.”
Shipley also enjoys playing with his two older brothers, Michael and Matthew, who are both his varsity teammates. One reason soccer is so important to him is because of the amount of fun he gets to have with his siblings.
“My older brothers Michael and Matthew both play on the team,” he said. “It’s fun playing with them. We get to joke and have fun a lot. We always have soccer balls around at home that we play around with, so we’re always doing something. I’ve been playing soccer since I was four years old. My parents put Michael in soccer when he was younger, and I just followed the same way when I came around. I enjoy playing team sports.”
The Panthers host Salado Friday night and open district play against Burnet Friday, Feb. 9. Shipley said the team is fine tuning mistakes and preparing for the district and playoff run ahead.
“We are working on some new formations and during games we have actually changed it,” he said. “Depending on what our opponents do in the game, we can adjust our formations depending on what coach Bauer wants us to do. I think in district games, that can help us to our advantage and hopefully in the playoffs down the road.”