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By Mike Forster
If the Liberty soccer-playing seniors passed on the opportunity to dance at last week?s prom, their dates shouldn?t feel offended.
With six games in six straight weekdays, the Minettes were nursing some seriously sore wheels. Even the coaches were worn out by the never-ending week.
The compressed schedule came about because of numerous postponements due to early-season inclement weather.
Ah, but the results made it all worthwhile as Liberty emerged from the gauntlet in superb shape. Not only did Liberty win the first five (the sixth was played after press time), they did so by shutout.
The Minettes? run included back-to-back 2-0 wins over Brookville, a 3-0 blanking of Amherst, a 2-0 win over Heritage and a 10-1 win over Rustburg. The Minettes played Amherst again on Tuesday, taking a 2-0 win on goals by Aspen Rautio and Maggie Rawlins.
The soccer-thon started shakily for Liberty. On Brookville?s pitch, the team was fortunate to come away with the win, as things just didn?t seem to click. However, Maggie Rawlins was clicking as she put home both goals for the Minettes.
The next night, however, all of the Minettes played stellar soccer with every facet of their game shining. Although the games ended with identical scores, the Liberty performance was markedly different.
?Tonight, we gave then nothing,? said an obviously pleased Steele. ?We played our style of soccer.?
That style of play resulted in numerous looks for the Minettes. Unfortunately, they just couldn?t find the back of the net. To her credit, Brookville keeper Jasmine Huggins had a lot to do with that, making 22 saves.
Finally, with just under 15 minutes remaining in the game, freshman Maran Catalano pounced on a rebound of a Rawlins shot, pegged it from 20 yards out and earned a 1-0 lead.
With under two minutes remaining, Aspen Rautio?s momentum carried her over a diving Huggins, landing her right next to the deflected ball for the shot to ice the game.
The win over Amherst featured goals by Rawlins, Rautio and Rachel Asbury. ?We had tired legs,? said Steele. ?Even the coaches sat down some.?
The game with Heritage actually extended over a full week. It started on April 26, with Rawlins scoring a quick goal before the heavens opened up and the game was postponed. ?It was good to get a second goal (by Aspen Rautio),? said Coach Steele. ?I didn?t want to rely on a week-old goal to get a 1-0 victory but, rather get the job done both offensively and defensively this night, this week.?
Liz Hale went one-on-one with Heritage standout Laura Rapp all night, winning more battles than she lost. Asbury seemed to control the midfield. The score didn?t reflect the efficacy of the Liberty attack. Heritage keeper Monica Li played a tremendous game, the best that Steele has seen her play over her four-year run as the Pioneer keeper.
With momentum compensating for exhaustion, the Minettes rolled to a big win over cellar-dwelling Rustburg on the Liberty pitch (also known as the football field).
Molly Mansel sent home three goals to lead the scoring parade against the Red Devils, en route to a 10-1 shellacking. Each of Mansel?s goals was unassisted.
Rawlins and Rautio continued their offensive antics, with each picking up a pair of goals.
New faces got into the act, as well. Cat Padgett, usually occupied sweeping the backfield, sent home a booming kick for her first goal of the season. Kaitlyn Thompson and Sarah Hunt also earned goals, the first of the year for the duo.
The five wins pushed Liberty back into familiar territory, as the team landed in second place, tied with Staunton River. Both the Minettes and Golden Eagles have two District losses apiece, while Forest sports a spotless Seminole record.
Folks, it is a near-certainty that we?ll see a 1-2-3 finish by county teams. It is believed that the last time that happened in any sport someone with a name other than Bush or Clinton occupied the White House. The only question is in what order the three will finish.