Lady Panthers begin district play next week

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By Scott Akanewich
Sports Editor

With only three games left before the district season begins, the Lady Panthers of Liberty Hill find themselves in a very unfamiliar place with the new league campaign looming.

Stuck in a winless streak.

Liberty Hill played three games at the Governor’s Elite Cup in Georgetown and failed to record a victory in any of them.

The current three-game slide isn’t quite uncharted territory for the program, but the waters the Lady Panthers are navigating at the moment certainly haven’t been visited for quite some time.

One must go all the way back to the opening four games of the 2016-17 season for the last time Liberty Hill failed to pick up a win for that long a stretch, when they were shut out in all four matches to boot.

However, the ship was eventually righted, with the team going on to finish with an overall record of 15-8, including an 11-1 district record, which was good enough for a league title.

So, despite the current run – which includes a pair of draws against Class 6A opponents in a 0-0 draw against Belton and a 1-1 stalemate with Hutto and a 1-0 loss to Wylie East, an elite Class 5A team from the Dallas area, no alarm bells need to be yet sounded concerning so-called struggles against a trio of sides who have combined for a 15-3-4 record, said Liberty Hill head coach Darren Bauer.

“Struggle is an interesting word,” he said. “I think it’s more like comfort for us. In the past, we didn’t have to be very creative to get a lot of scoring chances and we were used to being able to get away with things. We’ve also been relying on certain people too much this season.”

New this season is No. 1 goalkeeper Kylee Bush, a defender who has been installed in the Liberty Hill net after returning from a knee injury which kept the senior out of the lineup nearly all last season, but the rest of the team remains largely the same as last year in the fact there were no seniors on last season’s club, meaning everyone returned, with the only other changes being freshmen who have integrated into the squad.

Ironically, Bauer said he feared more for the defense heading into this season than the attack.

“Defensively, we’ve been fine so far,” he said. “Up front, we’re creating chances, but just not being clinical enough in finishing, I think we’ve been out-of-sync as far as all being on the same page, but we’re already looking better.”

Bauer added the recent run is serving as a perhaps much-needed wake-up call for his squad as they approach the district season.

“I think we needed these games to make us see,” he said. “We need to get out of our comfort zone.”

The Lady Panthers haven’t necessarily played poorly to this point – in fact, quite the opposite, said Bauer.

“We’ve done a great job of staying in these tough games we’ve been in and haven’t allowed more than one goal in a game,” he said. “But, at the same time, nobody feels like we’re playing well.”

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