Brandon “Boog” Hearron has had some talented squads during his six-year tenure as girls soccer coach at Liberty.
But what sets this season’s team apart for Hearron is what takes place well before matches even begin.
“It’s the best locker room,” Hearron said. “We’ve had some great athletes come through Liberty and we are blessed to be in the program we are in. Best locker room, by far. They get along really well and winning helps. But as far as them getting along on and off the field, it’s pretty nice.”
Wednesday’s 4-0 home win over Frontier helped.
The victory secured at least a share of the Southwest Yosemite League title for the Patriots (16-1-1, 8-0). Liberty hosts Stockdale on Friday, and a win or tie in that game would clinch a second consecutive outright league championship for the Patriots.
And after such a convincing win over a Frontier (8-7-1, 5-1-1) — a team that was playing as well as any team in Kern County coming in — there is a chance Liberty could be the top seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs that begin Feb. 13.
Liberty and Clovis-Buchanan are the top-2 teams in the division according to the MaxPreps.com computer rankings. The Bears are in first place in the Tri-River Athletic Conference after beating Fresno-Central 1-0 on Wednesday.
During a regulation-only match at Liberty in early December, the Patriots and Buchanan ended in a 0-0 stalemate. If Liberty finishes out the regular season undefeated in league and unbeaten against section opponents (its only loss was to Saugus on Dec. 29), Hearron feels his team would qualify as the No. 1 seed.
“The only argument would be how the rest of the coaches see it,” Hearron said. “Buchanan was one of the better teams we saw this year. It could go either way in a coin flip. If we got the 2-seed, I’d be happy with that. You never know. That’s all you ask.”
Added Liberty senior Emily Lostetter: “We are thinking we are going to see Buchanan again and hopefully take care of them this time. We just want to have a couple of playoff games at home. We have been working our butts off.”
Senior Bryanna Bartlett, who will sign to play soccer at San Jose State next week, got the scoring going Wednesday just 90 seconds into the contest. The two teams were held scoreless the rest of the first half.
“We made some adjustments at halftime and talked about timing,” Hearron said. “We knew Frontier was playing a really high-line and you live and die by that. They did a really good job of that in first half. In the second half, we got some breaks.”
Liberty scored three goals in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“They gave us a pretty hard game last time,” Lostetter said. “I wasn’t expecting it. I just wanted to go out there and get a couple of goals and just play defense so we could keep the lead.”
Lostetter scored twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the ladder giving the Patriots a 4-0 cushion with 30 minutes left in regulation. Her first goal came off an assist from sophomore Cynthia Flores, who leads the Patriots with 11 assists to go along with her 10 goals.
Lostetter’s second goal was assisted by Riley Slayton, who scored the third goal of the second half on an assist by Bartlett.
Liberty goalkeeper Megan Lynch had six saves.