Liberty Hill advances on 8-0 win

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By Scott Akanewich

Sports Editor

One thing Mykenna Russo isn’t afraid to do on a soccer field is to have a go at goal from distance.

So, when the Liberty Hill senior midfielder found the ball at her feet 30 yards out, she was in prime scoring territory and unleashed a blast which crashed against the left post, but dropped neatly for Piper Tabor, who tucked it home for the second goal of the game in the ninth minute during the Lady Panthers’ 8-0 second-round Class 5A state playoff victory over Medina Valley in Frederickburg on Tuesday night.

Over the course of her career in Purple-and-Gold, Russo has made it a habit to shoot and score from well outside the area, so even though the ball caromed off the woodwork on this occasion, it was certainly no surprise to Liberty Hill head coach Darren Bauer.

“Mykenna’s one of our top players,” he said. “She can do it all.”

Despite the fact Russo missed on that opportunity after having hit the post moments earlier, the third time was the charm, as she finally settled one into the back of the net in the 31st minute off an Alyssa Lee corner and a 4-0 Liberty Hill lead.

However, she was only getting warmed up.

With the Lady Panthers ahead at halftime by a 5-0 score, Russo came back out for the second half and promptly scored twice inside 60 seconds in the 44th minute, off a cross from Emma Stephens and a pass by Kailey Fowler, respectively, increasing the lead to 7-0.

Russo’s current haul of 20 goals on the season moves her up to second on the Lady Panthers’ scoring charts behind Fowler’s 23, with many of them of the long-range variety.

According to Russo, she has a definite plan when she sizes up the goalkeeper before bombing away with one of her trademark howitzers.

“I always look to see where the keeper is and then aim for the far post,” said Russo.

After senior midfielder Abbey Janicek had fired the Lady Panthers into the lead with a back-post finish off a Madi Fuller corner to open the scoring in the third minute, she must’ve been inspired by Russo’s long-distance darts and decided to fashion one for herself in launching a failed shot from outside the box in the 19th minute before finding the back of the net with another in the 31st, providing Liberty Hill with a comfortable five-goal cushion at the half.

Finally, Cordelia Brown tried her luck from 30 yards out on a free kick, which had been drawn by a foul on Fowler in the 68th minute and also cashed in for the final margin.

In addition to Russo’s hat trick, Janicek and Tabor each collected a pair of goals on the evening, while Kylee Bush was forced into only two saves in posting a shutout in goal.

Following a lethargic start to their opening-round, 3-0 win against Canyon on Friday, Russo said she and her teammates were determined to come flying out of the starting gates.

“I think having two weeks off in between games affected us,” she said. “We were more ready tonight.”

Liberty Hill (21-3-2) will next face No. 3 Dripping Springs (22-1-1) in the regional quarterfinals at Westlake High School on Friday at 7 p.m.

Despite the fact his side was defeated by the Tigers, 1-0, in the season opener, Bauer has no doubt the Lady Panthers will be ready for the rematch.

“We’re two really good programs,” he said. “So, it’s going to be a battle.”

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