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In its second year of existence, the Lady Panthers’ soccer team is growing by leaps and bounds. The varsity squad has swelled to 26 players, although several will be playing JV as well to gain more experience, head coach Greg Damron said. He said a total of 33 girls expressed interest in playing, and he averages 24-28 per practice.
“It’s been a great practice season so far,” he said. “So far we haven’t had any injuries. This time last year, we had three starters injured.”
In the off-season, assistant coaches Lillian Scott and Trevor Peterson held spring soccer for the Carroll County Middle School students, and they were invited to play JV in the fall. The program also gained some high school athletes—including Nora Fremin, Andie Hardesty and Lyndie Burns—who had watched the girls’ team play its inaugural season and wanted to join.
Because of the large numbers, Damron said varsity will benefit by having a deeper bench, and the program will field a JV team for the first time. So far, each of the varsity’s opponents have JV teams willing to play.
As an experiment, Damron is assigning different girls to play in different positions so that he can develop more utility players rather than strict position players.
The team has five seniors, two of which started for varsity last season and another who played on a coed team for another school.
Even though she is kind of quiet, Damron said he is pushing senior Brittany Arvin to be the team leader this season. He said her skill level has improved since last season, especially after attending British Camp this season. “You can see the effort she’s put in this year,” he said.
Out from between the shadow of the goal posts, senior Nikki Hill will play out in the field this season. Last year was her first time playing keeper. In the past when the soccer team was coed, she played wing. “She sees the field well, makes good decisions,” Damron said.
Senior Ana Jiminez attended Gallatin County last year and played on the coed team. She is back this season and will bring her aggressive style of play to the Lady Panthers. Damron said she is very confident with her ball handling and can distribute the ball well.
Hardesty is a multi-sport athlete, but this is her first playing soccer. “Playing basketball and running track and cross country, she just has a natural athleticism about her that carries her along well,” Damron said. He said she is doing well on the wing, and while hesitant at times, she is making good decisions with the ball.
Senior Maria Zavala has played soccer before recreationally, but not for an organized team. While personal commitments have kept her from consistently coming to practice, Damron said she works hard to improve when she is there.
In the goal for the Lady Panthers will be sophomores Nikki States and Ashley Srouder. Damron said States will play mostly for varsity, but both will have the opportunity to play in the goal and on the field.
When he began piecing together the schedule, Damron said he looked for more Northern Kentucky teams that are comparable to Carroll County. He is still looking for both varsity and JV tournaments to enter.
The theme for this year is “Team First,” Damron said, emphasizing to his team the importance of working together on the field and off. While last year’s goal was to focus on fundamentals and achieve other team and personal goals, Damron has his sights set a little higher this season. This year, the Lady Panthers will look for their first program victory and also want to double the number of goals they scored last year (8). Damron said he also wants to pull off a win in conference play.
“We are further along then we were last year at this time,” Damron said. “We knew we’d been further along, but we didn’t know we’d be this far. The confidence level among the girls has really taken off.”