Your Prep Sports
NORTH LIBERTY – The Liberty High soccer program has been solid since its inception four years ago.
Liberty High was three games over .500 in its first three seasons combined after a 9-8 season last spring.
So, what has taken the Lightning from an above average program to a top-10 team in Class 3A this season?
It’s all the things you would guess, returning talent, better chemistry, more experience, but mostly according to Liberty High players and head its been hard work.
“It’s the chemistry, it’s the leadership, it’s all those cliches but what it comes down to is as a group we have worked very, very hard,” Liberty High head coach Sonny Travis said. “These guys are very coachable and they are really starting to step up.”
Class 3A seventh-ranked Liberty High continued its breakthrough season on Thursday with a 4-1 win over Dubuque Wahlert (3-5) in a Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division match in North Liberty.
The win was the second straight for the Lightning and improved Liberty High to 10-1 on the season, one win from the single season program record for victories.
“This year we have a group of guys that are leaders,” sophomore Flori Gembo said. “We were a really young team last year and we only lost a few guys so basically it is the same team and we have figured it out and are playing really well this year.”
Gembo was part of that group of talented returners after ranking third on the team in goals last season.
This season Gembo has scored a team-high 10 goals for a Lightning squad that has outscored opponents 52-5.
With talent, experience and leadership returning all that was missing was some hard work.
Something the Lightning say hasn’t been a problem this spring.
“I think we just focused in at practice and stopped goofing off,” junior defender Hayden Saul said. “We take it one game at a time now instead of looking at the big picture. Last year we really focused in on the big games but this year we are taking it one step at a time.”
Liberty High was all business early on Thursday jumping to a 3-0 lead less than 13 minutes into the match.
Senior Joslin Gembo scored twice and sophomore Quinn Cleary had a goal during the 3-0 spurt to open the match.
“We really just brough the energy,” Saul said. “We’ve been struggling with that but this game we got out there and put the work in right from the start.”
Gembo started the scoring less than six minutes in and Cleary made it 2-0 with a goal in the 11th minute.
When Gembo scored his second goal of the match the Lightning led 3-0 with 27:50 left in the first half.
Amah Ajavon added a goal in the 47th minute to put Liberty High up 4-0 before Dubuque Wahlert got on the board on a Brant Perry goal with 12:18 remaining.
“The first 20 minutes or so was sharp but the rest of the match could have been better,” Flori Gembo said. “We kind of let down and in the second half coach talked to us about grit and stepping to every ball and we did that and liked the results.”