For all intents and purposes, the 2018 season for the Liberty girls soccer team has been nothing short of outstanding.
The record alone is impressive — a 20-1-1 overall mark and a first place finish in the Southwest Yosemite League standings rounded out the Patriots’ regular season. What followed was a No. 1 seed in the section tournament and wins over Clovis North (4-2 on penalty kicks) and Visalia-Redwood (5-0) in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.
The Patriots will look to capture the Central Section Division I championship Tuesday, when they host Clovis-Buchanan at 6 p.m.
“It would be really great for our girls to have some recognition. This team has worked so hard. And we’ve come so far,” said senior captain Caitlin Goetjen. “To win this, it would be amazing for a lot of reasons.”
They certainly have the roster and team composition to make it happen.
Bryanna Bartlett leads the way on attack. The senior, who will play college soccer at San Jose State, has a team-high 13 goals this season.
She’s flanked up front by playmaker Cynthia Flores (11 goals, 13 assists), Riley Slayton (nine goals, 11 assists) and Rhyan Acosta (eight goals, four assists).
Defensively, the team has anchors such as center midfielders Goetjen and Vanessa Sepulveda. A solid supporting cast includes Madison McMahon (freshman), Kassadi Reece (sophomore), Kiara Oliver (sophomore) and Madi Frey (junior).
“We’re pretty well balanced. We have a young back-four that we play with,” said head coach Brandon ‘Boog’ Hearron. “We’re averaging three goals a game, less than one conceded. So it’s pretty good balance all across. It’s been a good year.”
Hearron said his team has a healthy mix of youthful exuberance and veteran experience.
Slayton added the group works well together and the players pick each other up.
“I definitely think that we are a very talented group of girls in many positions,” Slayton said. “Defense, midfield and forward, all the way across the board.”
The Patriots expect sophomore goalkeeper Megan Lynch to return Tuesday after she missed the last two games because of a concussion.
“Our plan is for her to start,” Hearron said.
In comes Buchanan, a powerhouse program that’s won Central Section titles nine of the last 12 years, Hearron said.
Then lone section title for Liberty girls soccer came in 2002 as a Division II program.
The two teams met one time already this season, a Dec. 13 contest that ended in a 1-1 tie.
“It was a nice challenge to see that higher competition,” Goetjen said. “We kind of know how they play and we know how we can contradict how they play.”
Hearron said Buchanan is the program all others measure themselves against in the Central Section.
“It’ll be awesome for our girls to play in front of friends and family on our homefield….We’ve had an awesome season,” Hearron said.
He would then add, “I want out players to go out and enjoy it. Their body of work has gotten them a No. 1 seed, has gotten them at home. Go out, and enjoy the moment.”