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Chaney’s Liberty girls soccer team features 9 returning-starter sophomores

Friday, Mar. 15 | By Cody Sealey
MacKenkie Parker and the defense were a strength of the Liberty High girls soccer team last year. The Eagles hope to improve on last year's 2-9-3 campaign. --Photo by Adam Goings
Cathy Chaney took over a wounded Liberty High girls soccer program last spring and began her attempt to restore it.

The rebuild began when she started nine freshmen on her varsity squad last spring. Now, 12 months later, Chaney welcomes back her young nucleus as sophomores.

A year ago, the Eagles finished last in the Evergreen District with a final record of 2-9-3, but wins and losses aside, Chaney’s team gained valuable varsity experience which has helped with the development of her program.

Year two of the rebuild will prove to be a key indicator of what to expect from the girls from Bealeton, who opened with a 5-0 loss to Osbourn Park on Monday.

Chaney already believes her team can be more competitive and blossom into a potential Evergreen District contender.

"I am very excited for this season,” Chaney said. “We are still clearly very young; however, we are building off last season. We didn’t take a step back.”

The Eagles' coaching staff is hoping improvement comes from continued teaching. Chaney believes the academic approach will diminish the amount of mistakes and open up more scoring opportunities.

“I want our girls to be out on the field and see what is going on in front of them. If they understand what is happening, then they can make better decisions with the ball,” said Chaney.

This concept would help the Eagles' transition game, which was a weakness a year ago. The young defenders and midfielders often looked overwhelmed and struggled mightily to get the ball to their forwards.

“Transitioning as a whole is very important in soccer, said sophomore midfielder Hailey Rogers.. “As fun as it is playing up top and scoring, the whole team has to get back on defense and protect the net.”

Many of the players are hopeful that the team's maturity will pay dividends.

“The progress from last year has already begun to manifest itself, and I expect it to carry over into this season,” said sophomore forward Brittanie King.

“Not playing as a team was one of our biggest problems last year,” Rogers said. “If we start playing together, which I think we will, we are going to be much more successful.”

“Being a second-time varsity player is so much different than the first,” said sophomore midfielder Sofia Rosales. “We know more about what to expect and how things go.

“One great thing about our team is that we have so much fun playing the sport, which is a strength for us. There is nothing better than playing with passion.”

Last season, the young Liberty defense emerged as a bright spot.

The defense should be a strength yet again, even though they will be without star sophomore defender Kelli Burney, who will miss the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

“With Kelli out, we definitely have a void we need to fill,” said Chaney. “The team looks up to her, and she has a vast knowledge of the game.”

“Kelli Burney is an amazing athlete with an incredible talent for soccer,” Rosales said. “Not having her is something we are going to have to adjust to, but we have a couple of girls that will fill in the job pretty well. We aren’t too worried because we know this isn’t the last of Kelli. She will come back and be stronger than ever.”

Even without Burney the Eagles still have a formidable gang of defenders, led by junior MacKenzie Parker and sophomore Savannah Chaffin.

“We have a loss in Kelli, but Savannah and MacKenzie are very good defenders, as well,” Chaney said. “If our defense works as a unit and stay organized, we will be solid.”

The LHS midfield will be led again by sophomores Hailey Rogers and Sofia Rosales. Both girls got valuable experience last season. With the instincts of Rogers and the competitiveness of Rosales, the midfield could be an asset for LHS.

The Liberty offense qualified as anemic last year, with only eight goals in 16 games. Chaney is depending on her team to hit the back of the net often and expects more production from her group of forwards.

Sophomore Brittanie King returns to start at forward. She'll be joined by juniors Lizzie Berger and Zoe Peele.

Berger and Peele will fill the void left by talented Aubri Crummett, who graduated last year.

“I have seen a lot of maturity and growth in Brittanie King, but we are also counting on Lizzie and Zoe to help put balls in the net at the forward position,” said Chaney.

“I think we are going to do a lot more offensively because we communicate better. This should lead us to more wins,” said Peele.

The Eagles also lost goalie Taylor Welch to graduation. That position will be filled by a completely different Taylor, freshman Taylor Dodson.

“We obviously will miss Taylor Welch but we have a new Taylor,” Chaney said. “She has the same name, so we are hoping she can step in and fill in the same shoes,. She is well trained, and we hope to have her play at a high level for many more years.”

Chaney believes her girls are capable of big things this season. “If we move the ball well and capitalize on opportunities, we will be very tough,” said the hard-working coach.
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