Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 | 7 a.m.
Liberty's girls soccer team only scored seven goals in 15 games last year in finishing the season with one win.
This year, the Patriots are off to a 3-2-1 start and have netted 14 goals to eclipse last year's totals.
Leading the surge for the playoff-hopeful Patriots is junior forward Minerva Massis, who has seven goals to lead the team.
"She's scored by herself as many goals as the team had all last year. She's been phenomenal," Liberty coach Brian Backman said. "She has really good ball control skills. She has a very good right foot, and her left foot isn't bad either."
Massis got off to a hot start with a record-setting performance in Liberty's second game of the season, a 5-2 win over Desert Oasis on Dec. 11. She posted the first hat trick in the Patriots' six-year history.
Senior captain and fellow forward Brandee Haynes said Massis's skill level is unquestioned but her mental approach is what helps her excel.
"Minerva plays real hard — she's very aggressive," Haynes said. "She never quits. She's always on the ball from the beginning of the game to the end. She's constantly pushing herself. She's just amazing."
Massis said her motivation to improve stems from her desire to reach the top levels of women's soccer. She's dreamed of playing soccer for a Division I school and possibly competing professionally.
As part of her quest to earn a scholarship, Massis said she has dedicated herself to constant work with the Patriots, on her own and with her club team — FC Las Vegas.
"I'm practicing a lot more than I used to," Massis said. "I stay after school or after practice and keep working on stuff. I used to think my headers were weak, so I just made sure to practice them and they've gotten a lot better. "
Massis has also collected four assists for the Patriots, who she said have taken a big step this season.
"We're off to a good start," she said. "I think our communication has improved a lot. We're getting along better and coach is doing well getting us to play our best. I really think we can get into the playoffs this year."
Assistant coach Scott Tschan agreed team chemistry has improved this year, which has led to a higher level of performance on the field. He credited Massis as one of the team leaders who can keep the Patriots focused.
"Her biggest change from last year to this year is she's taken on more of a leadership role," Tschan said. "That's just made her even more of an asset to us. She's very motivated and very competitive. She's willing to take the ball and make plays when we need them."
Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or email@example.com.