Liberty Hill Gets Two Overtime Goals To Eliminate Center, 2-1, In Class 4A State Semifinals
GEORGETOWN -- The Center Roughriders advanced to the first UIL state soccer tournament in program history this season, and did so having to overcome a few close calls along the way.
They finally met their match Wednesday night, as Liberty Hill scored two overtime goals to defeat Center, 2-1, in their Class 4A semifinal at Birkelbach Field.
Liberty Hill (22-5), which is located less than 20 minutes to the west of Georgetown, made the estimated 2,000 Panther faithful happy, eagerly awaiting Friday afternoon's state championship game against San Elizario.
Meanwhile, Center finished its historic season at 20-4-1.
"This is a big deal for the school; this will make more of our middle school kids want to play soccer, and I do expect a big turnout next year for what we did this year," said Center coach Roque Palomino, whose team will graduate only three seniors. "This is a big step for our program, and not just the team."
Liberty Hill and Center finished the 80-minute regulation deadlocked at 0-0, but the Panthers wasted little time in the first extra session capturing the match's first goal.
Sophomore forward Jack Brewer dribbled upfield, between a pair of Center defenders, took his shot from about 20 yards away, and scored for a 1-0 Panthers' advantage in the 83rd minute.
Center was kept out of the net for remainder of the first overtime period, but the Roughriders made a tactical switch to begin the second 10 minutes, and it paid off when sophomore forward Aung Thein found the back of the net for the equalizer in the 92nd minute.
With the dreaded penalty kicks looming as a possible conclusion to the match, Liberty Hill re-took the overtime lead less than three minutes later when senior midfielder Zachari Zausch launched a shot from 35 yards out, past Roughriders keeper Julian Jimenez with less than five minutes remaining in the second OT.
"I knew we had to do something, so I moved three forwards up top and just prayed that we could put the equalizer in there," Palomino said of overtime No. 2. "We got it, but I think maybe it was my mistake to pull (Thein) back down to defense. I knew they could do it. We played a great team and I wish them the best; they have a heck of a team."
Despite neither team registering a goal in regulation, there was plenty of action around the net, especially in the final 15 minutes when Center's defense was forced to spoil several Liberty Hill chances deep in Roughriders' territory.
"We've played many teams that play that way; they played a fast break up top and we were kind of accustomed to playing that type of game," Palomino said. "And I think that helped us a lot. We beat out some great teams and those great teams played that same type of soccer, fast breaks and crossing it to the middle."
Palomino said he wasn't sure what to expect from his team when the season began after Center had graduated the bulk of its starting lineup in 2014. But he learned who his team was pretty quickly into the new year.
"Last year I graduated maybe 10 or 12 seniors, so we knew we'd be a young team," the coach said. "At the beginning of the year we had some tough games, but the guys knew how to handle it. I think the team was more united this year than I've ever seen it, and it became a family more than a team. I can't express how proud I am of these guys because throughout the season, we'd fall and get back up, fall and get back up. So I knew these guys would make it this far. I knew that a team that knows how to lose and get back up is a great team."