Walter lifts LH into 1-1 draw with Vandergrift JV

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Liberty Hill’s Tayler Walter heads the ball as Vandegrift’s Grace Andres (8) defends Tuesday night during a non-district girls soccer match at Panther Stadium. The teams played to a 1-1 draw. (Kathy Canady Photo)

Liberty Hill’s Tayler Walter heads the ball as Vandegrift’s Grace Andres (8) defends Tuesday night during a non-district girls soccer match at Panther Stadium. The teams played to a 1-1 draw. (Kathy Canady Photo)

By BOB VARMETTE

For the better part of 50 minutes, the Liberty Hill Lady Panthers were on the defensive. But in the second half, the Lady Panthers seemed to be a different team.

Liberty Hill didn’t dominate the final 40 minutes, but they won more of the individual battles, and one of those individual wins allowed senior Tayler Walter to score the equalizer in the 53rd minute and lift the Lady Panthers to a 1-1 draw with the Vandegrift Lady Vipers junior varsity in a girls non-district soccer match Tuesday night at Panther Stadium.

Walter’s tally – her fifth in six matches this season – came off a pass from sophomore midfielder Alex Svetlik after a goal kick by Vandegrift goalkeeper Sophia Ramirez failed to clear.

“It was a really good lay-off pass from the back – they didn’t have any pressure on us,” Walter said. “It was wide open, and honestly on their part they should have pressed it, but I had enough time and space. I was really lucky that I got a good shot off like that.”

Walter nearly stuck again about seven minutes later, slinging a left-footed shot from 35 yards. But the shot went high and hit the football crossbar.

Both of Walter’s shots came during a second half that was much more even than the first. During the first 40 minutes of the match, Vandegrift dominated possession and kept Liberty Hill playing defense in its own end.

The Lady Vipers outshot the Lady Panthers 5-3 in the first half, winning most of the individual challenges for possession. Liberty Hill’s defense, however, kept the quality chances to a minimum – but one cost the Lady Panthers the game’s first goal.

Camielle Carriere found a free ball in front of the Liberty Hill net after miscommunication between Lady Panthers goalkeeper Mackenzy Turner and her back line and launched the ball into the net in the 27th minute.

“It was a strong goal from inside the box,” Vandegrift coach Luz Gutierrez said. “They made a mistake and we were able to capitalize on it.”

It was a first half of mistakes for the Lady Panthers. But mostly, Liberty Hill coach Kelsy Quinn said, it was a first half of playing poor soccer.

The Vandegrift girls program is a strong one – the Lady Vipers varsity won a state championship last season. The junior varsity program has a lot of depth, Quinn said, particularly in players who have significant competitive soccer experience outside of school.

Add in a new defensive alignment tried out by the Lady Panthers due to two injuries in the Salado tournament and Liberty Hill, perhaps also haunted by a 5-1 loss to Vandegrift last season, came out tentative and unorganized.

“The first half – that was not soccer. It was the girls trying to do their own thing and hoping that it worked out,” Quinn said. “We were kind of digressing in the first half, kind of like going back to square one and our first game. To see them realize it and fix it in the second half … I don’t think we’re back to square one.”

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