LHHS girls win in consecutive soccer shutouts

Emma Hofmann (#7) steals the ball from a Leander Glenn defender to make a run toward the goal Tuesday. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

Emma Hofmann (#7) steals the ball from a Leander Glenn defender to make a run toward the goal Tuesday. (Shannon Hofmann Photo)

By Paul Livengood

In the first meeting between Liberty Hill’s and Leander Glenn’s girls soccer programs, the Lady Panthers thrashed the Lady Grizzlies 14-0. Liberty Hill scored eight goals in the first half and six in the second.

Tuesday night, Liberty Hill swept the season series by defeating Leander Glenn 8-0.

The Lady Panthers started off slower this time, leading 1-0 at halftime. However, Liberty Hill regathered its offensive firepower in the second half, scoring seven goals in the final 40 minutes.

Kyla Boliek and Brianna Stark each scored two goals, and Emma Hofmann, Gaby Garcia, Claudia Fuenmayor, and Courtney Peterson all found the back of the net once. The Lady Panthers’ assist master Alex Svetlik had all three of Liberty Hill’s assists. Svetlik leads the team this season with nine assists.

The 8-0 win extends the Liberty Hill win streak to six games.

“It’s nice,” Head Coach Darren Bauer said of the team’s winning streak, “especially after the way we started the season where we were having trouble scoring, having trouble connecting, and doing different things. It’s coming together. That’s when you want it to come together is the end of the season. We’ve gotten through some tough games. Now we just have to keep our sharpness and hope it carries over into the playoffs.”

The Lady Panthers completed the shutout with freshman backup goalkeeper Miranda Durkin in cage. Durkin has already recorded significant minutes in eight games thus far. Bauer likes to pull Mackenzy Turner from the cage and play her in the field once the team is up by a large margin. He has not hesitated to give the freshman some quality minutes in district games.

“We have confidence in (Durkin),” Bauer said. “She just lacks a little experience since she’s a freshman, but we have confidence in her ability and playing the ball with her feet, as well. It doesn’t change much for us. We go out and do what we need to do and dictate the pace and how the game is going to be played.”

Liberty Hill defeated Lampasas 7-0 last Friday. The Lady Panthers have averaged six goals per game in their last seven games—up from the 0.33 goals per game in their first six matchups this season.

Bauer said the team’s offensive performance has improved tremendously due to the players’ awareness of their teammates’ runs.

“They’re starting to see each other’s runs a lot better,” Bauer said. “Some of them are making a lot better runs. The big thing is how quickly we’ve been playing the ball. Whenever we get the ball off of our foot in two touches and play those gaps, it’s really hard to defend. The fact that we’re playing quick, making better runs, it’s starting to click and connect.”

Garcia, senior midfielder, scored two goals, and Kendal James, Kassidy Freeman, Stark, Boliek, and Miriam Powell all scored one.

Garcia also finished with three assists. James, Boliek, Emma Hofmann, and Maddie Dube each dished out one assist.

The Lady Panthers’ scoring depth has developed into one of the team’s strengths. Liberty Hill has recorded four-plus different goal scorers in seven of the squad’s 16 games.

“A lot of teams rely on one or two people, and I’ve always tried to make my teams where you have a lot of deadly people that can put a team away,” Bauer said. “Whenever you do that, you’re really hard to defend. When you only have one or two people, you can mark them and take them out of the game. Then you have nothing else. It’s nice that we have girls that are confident and can put the ball in the back of the net.”

Durkin and fellow freshman Kelsey Moore are recording significant minutes this season for the Panthers. Bauer says the young players’ contributions and growth on the field are vital to the future of the program.

“It’s definitely going to help us in the future,” Bauer said. “We still do have Mackenzy (Turner) one more year, but anytime you can get freshmen some experience on varsity level is good for building the program and for the future, because this year we have important parts that are leaving us. We need those people to step in very, very quickly.”

Liberty Hill will travel for its next game, kicking off against the Florence Lady Buffaloes on Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. Florence is 0-2 all-time against Liberty Hill.