ST. GEORGE – The Pine View Panthers enter 2014 coming off a first round playoff appearance where they lost to eventual state runner-up Juan Diego.
The young Panthers want to build on that experience, but they know this year is also a bit of a rebuilding year. Although they come to the table with mostly freshmen and sophomores, the older players, like senior Sadie Blaisdell, feel like they can win and progress farther than last year.
Blaisdell said hopefully the players can “take what we did bad and correct it and move on further into the playoff games this year — just do better than we did last year.”
Panther head coach Sam Johnston said the experience of playing against Juan Diego will prove beneficial for this season, but the team still has a ways to go.
“We played a lot of freshmen and a lot of sophomores last year in the playoff game,” Johnston said. “They got a feel for it, and they felt like in some ways it was an opportunity lost. They want to take a step forward from that, which is good to see. They left a little unsatisfied. It’s good to have these younger girls that got a lot of playoff experience early on.”
But after a 3-0 loss to Springville to open the season last week, the Panthers see where they need to improve.
“We didn’t have a very strong possessive game,” Blaisdell said. “Hopefully this week as we go into two preseason games we are able to possess more and be on top of it and hopefully be more united as a team now that we’ve played our first game together.”
Johnston pointed out the lack of a possession game as well, but he said things improved in the second half and those things should carry into Pine View’s two games this week.
“The second half we played with a little more energy, a little more intensity,” he said. “I think it showed. We held (Springville) 0-0 in the second half. We still have a lot of work to do. It seems like there’s more that needs to be done than we’ve done so far. We have a lot of growing to do and a lot of getting better.”
Blaisdell said she’s liked the progression of her new teammates, and she relishes the opportunity to build chemistry with them.
“I’m excited to meet all the new freshmen and get to know them and see their strengths and hopefully help them on their weaknesses — help them to become better players as they progress in the years to come for the high school team,” she said.
Johnston said the younger players are still learning, but he’s pleased with their progress. Because of that, Pine View expects to challenge for a spot in the state tournament once again.
“Expectations are kind of similar to where we were last year,” he said. “I expect us to be really competitive defensively, and I hope that our midfield and forwards come along as the season wears on so that by the end of the year we’ve done enough to put us into a playoff position.
“Early on I think we’re going to have some growing pains, but I couldn’t be more happy with the younger ones and how they’re doing.”
Follow Richard Briggs on Twitter, @BriggsRich.