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By Rod Thornburg / Special toThe Californian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
The girls soccer schedule in Liberty's locker room has the upcoming games covered up with blue athletic tape, the kind you couldn't see through even if you press your nose up next to it.
That's why Patriots coach Boog Hearron refused to bite when asked how important his team's 1-0 home victory over Frontier was Thursday in a battle of Southwest Yosemite League unbeatens.
"It's just another game," he said as he ripped off another piece of tape to reveal Liberty's match with Stockdale on Tuesday. "We're not talking about winning league or winning Valley like some teams do. We keep things very simple."
Simple was enough for Liberty (11-2-1, 4-0 SWYL) against Frontier (15-5, 3-1). The Patriots scored the game's only goal eight minutes into the second half when Maci Feliz slipped a through ball between two Frontier defenders to a streaking Lexie Kinney, who slotted it past Frontier goalkeeper Madeline Grimes.
"I actually thought Maci should have shot that ball," Hearron said, "but Maci and Lexie are something else. They each have 11 goals and something like 9 assists, and all of the assists are to each other."
After that, neither team had many chances, with Liberty's midfield possession and solid back line styming Frontier, which hadn't lost since Dec. 11.
"We knew we were pretty even coming in," Titans coach Max Bluemel said. "It was two quality sides, and it boiled down to who made the first critical error. Unfortunately, that was us. Liberty kept putting the pressure on us, and we boiled down."
After the goal, Frontier managed a couple of strikes from outside the box but had no real scoring chances from close range.
"They're very strong in the midfield and defense and they play a very physical game," Titans coach Max Bluemel said. "They were a rock back there."
Liberty lost twice at the Garces Holiday Soccer Festival, to Clovis North and Stockdale, but the Patriots are nearing full health for the first time. Midfielders Allie Holmes and Mackenzie Duerksen, both all-SWYL selections last year, are back in the lineup after early-season injuries, and Hearron expects forward Laney Carrasco, an All-Area player last year, back soon.
"Our team has pretty good chemistry despite having all those girls hurt or sick," Hearron said.
Now Liberty is allowed to turn its attention to Stockdale (3-1 SWYL) in another match the standings say is more important than most. The Mustangs handed the Patriots one of their two losses and could create a three-way tie atop the league if they win Tuesday.
"But every game is just as important as these ones," Hearron said. "We could easily get knocked off by somebody else, and then it doesn't matter what you do against Frontier or Stockdale. At this point last year, we had about the same record and we didn't go too far in the playoffs. So what did that get us?"