Freshman learning ‘you cannot play slow’ in high school soccer

Freshman Kelsey Moore (#13) prepares to send one toward the goal during Liberty Hill’s game against Leander Glenn. Moore scored her first career goal against the Grizzlies Feb. 3. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Freshman Kelsey Moore (#13) prepares to send one toward the goal during Liberty Hill’s game against Leander Glenn. Moore scored her first career goal against the Grizzlies Feb. 3. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By Mike Schoeffel

From day one, freshman Kelsey Moore expected to be a member of the Liberty Hill High School girls varsity soccer roster.

What the 14-year-old center midfielder didn’t foresee, however, was becoming a starter so early in her career. That’s exactly what has transpired, though, and head coach Darren Bauer said she’s having no problem fitting in with girls three-to-four years her senior.

“She is very strong,” Bauer said. “Some of the girls get ‘mad’ at her in the weight room when they see how easily she does some of the lifts. She is also a very technical player. She has good touch and sees passing lanes well. It is very impressive to see as a freshman.”

Moore, who has played soccer since the age of six, has become a consistent presence for Bauer and the Panthers. She earned the first two assists of her varsity career in a 7-0 win over Pleasanton on Jan. 21. In a 14-0 demolition of Glenn on Feb. 3, she scored her first varsity goal. Thanks in part to Moore’s contributions, the Panthers are off to a 3-1 start in district play.

She said the “biggest lesson” she’s learned so far is that “you have to play fast.”

“You cannot play slow in high school soccer,” she said.

Bauer had an opportunity to watch Moore play with her club team during her eighth-grade season. She also attended the girls varsity soccer camp prior to her freshman year, giving Bauer an opportunity to observe her on a more individual basis. He was impressed with what he saw from the start, but stressed to her that “she had a lot of work to do…in order to get that playing time.”

Moore put in that work.

“She’s an incredible player that listened and learned,” Bauer said. “Not only from me, but from the other girls as well.”

Moore, who has lived in Liberty Hill for the past nine years after spending time in California, Wisconsin and Maryland, has welcomed constructive criticism from the older players as she continues to learn the nuances of becoming a successful varsity player. For instance, if she makes a bad pass or doesn’t see a play that perhaps she should have, some of the girls will “pull me aside and help me see what I can do better in that situation.”

“All of the girls, especially the upperclassmen, are extremely helpful,” she said. “They always encourage me to keep going.”

The younger girls, too, have aided in Moore’s transition, giving her “someone I can talk to or be with in drills.”

“It seems like something small,” she said. “But having a friend when you start something new can be really encouraging and comforting.”

Right now, Moore is still in the infancy of her varsity career — a stage defined by learning on-the-fly and straightening out any bad habits she may possess. Bauer foresees Moore developing into a force on the pitch by the time she moves past her formative years and into a leadership role within the Panthers’ program.

“I think she can develop into a playmaker,” he said. “Someone who calms down on the ball, is strong on the ball, and feeds everyone else. I think she can be a lot like (seniors) Alex (Svetlik) or Gaby (Garcia) in the middle of the field. And the great thing is, that is who she is playing alongside right now and are probably teaching her the most.”

From the way Moore talks about her short- and long-term goals, it seems as though Bauer’s assessment of the young playmaker’s potential to become a strong team leader in the coming years is spot on.

“I hope I can learn to play faster and better — like the senior girls,” said Moore. “I also hope to establish good relationships with the girls I play with. And to help the younger girls in the incoming classes learn how to play with this team, and help them, like the girls this year helped me.”