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Liberty girls soccer preview

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Should be tops in their conference

By Mike Forster

 

On the one hand, the Liberty girls soccer team is a young one:  Of the 17 players on the team, only four are seniors.

But, when one of those four happens to be the reigning Seminole District Player of the Year, one tends to feel not terribly sorry for the Lady Minutemen.

That player is, of course, Laura Garbarini, a goal-scorer of infinite talent.  A deadly striker, blessed of feet which are both speedy and talented, Garbarini excels at what matters the most in this sport:  putting the ball in the back of the net.  In fact, there were goals she scored last year which should have been stopped, except they blistered the opposing goalkeepers' hands on their way to paydirt.

"She plays the game the right way," said Liberty Head Coach Jeff Steele.  "She passes when she needs to, and she shoots when she needs to."

Garbarini, who'll play at Roanoke College next year, will tri-captain with fellow seniors Andrea Scruggs and Mariel Messier.  All three have been on Steele's varsity roster since they were freshmen.

Scruggs, who will play at Ferrum next year, will be found on the right side of Liberty's straight-four defensive line.  "She's a great leader," assessed Steele.  "She hustles and helps out everywhere.  She can spark things for us."

Messier, a cerebral player who has been accepted at UVa, will flank the midfield for Liberty.  "She keeps things positive," said Steele.  "She has good field vision and can stretch the field."

The other senior is Audrey McCombs, who can plug into the midfield or the attack.  "She really helps round out the team," said Steele.

On the other flank of the midfield you'll find Angela Rowan.  The junior played the position last season and brings a dominant left foot to the mix.  She can beat opponents with her superb speed.

Steele has a stout set of sophomores.  Hannah Overstreet and Grace Parker will line up at center mid.  Overstreet is just starting to figure out how fast she can go.  She adds a great long shot.  Parker was a forward last year and can finish up close.  She's also a good playmaker.

Lizzie Boone will see if she can take up where she finished last year, when she scored a pair of goals to push William Byrd into overtime in the Region III opener.  She'll line up at outside fullback but will certainly be a part of the Liberty attack.

Julia Scruggs brings Garbarini-like speed to the mix.  As center fullback, she'll control the defense with that speed and her leadership.

Keeper Jillian Blackburn brings a gutsy, fearless approach to the game.  She'll challenge anyone.

Destiny Barrett is the third center mid (Liberty runs a 4-5-1), is solid and is a good possession player.

Anna Thompson, up from JV, will round out the defensive line.  Even though she's a newbie to that veteran group, in Steele's opinion, she "plays equal to the rest."

Five of those sophomores started as freshmen last year.  All have returned to impress Steele.  "In these sophomores, you see such a difference," he noted.  "They're faster, more skilled and playing as a team. They're solid right now."

Last year, Liberty finished in third place in the district.  All of its Seminole losses came at the hands of EC Glass and Jefferson Forest.

This year, "our goal is to win our conference," said Steele.  "We have the tools, attitude, energy and fitness to do that."

In the new playoff structure, Liberty finds itself in a very favorable Conference 30, which also includes Brookville, Heritage, Rustburg and Tunstall.

The odds are good that the Lady Minutemen will emerge as conference champs.  But, to do that, the team will have to find a way to diversify its approach to scoring.  Certainly, Garbarini will continue to be the player that most concerns Liberty foes.  

But the team can ill afford to hitch all of its hopes to her star.  Steele has little concern about that happening.  "They're a great group of girls," he notes.  "They have fun together; they eat at the same table.  Their chemistry carries on to the field."