By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Don’t think PikeView’s girls are finished because Laura Hill graduated.
Far from it.
While the Lady Panthers will certainly miss the Class AA-A All-State first-team captain, who now plays at W.Va. Wesleyan College, the team looks strong in every category, including scoring.
“I think we can be as good by the end of the season as any team we’ve had at PikeView,” coach Sam Hill said. “Everyone can play at a competitive level.”
That’s quite a statement, considering the Lady Panthers, 16-5-2 last season, have played in three of the last four state tournaments.
Perhaps no single player is going to replace Laura Hill and her 115 career goals, but PikeView has many scoring threats. A huge plus is the full-time return of 2011 all-state forward Hope Nester, who missed most of last season with a knee injury.
She scored 52 goals her sophomore season, which was the unofficial state record until Hill booted 59 last season.
“Hope will take some of the pressure off replacing Laura,” Sam Hill (Laura’s dad) said. “She’s the same, if not a stronger athlete than she was then. She’s an exceptionally hard worker.”
In fact, replacing the other graduated player, center-midfielder Charlotte Webster, might be the harder task. Webster had numerous assists to both Hill and Nester.
Someone else will have to get the ball to the scorers, and play strong defense in the center as well. Sophomore Sophie Klein and senior Brooke Baker seem to be rising to the occasion.
“Sophie played fantastic at the end of last season, and she’s a step above where she was then,” Hill said. “She can fill that playmaking role, for sure.
“The other part of Charlotte’s game was she was a huge ball winner. Brooke has taken on that responsibility. She’s as fit as she’s ever been, and she gives us great leadership.”
Sophomore Brittany Moore and junior Courtney Gray will also see time at midfielder. Sophomore Maddie May will roam the wings.
PikeView usually plays with just one forward. Nester looks to be the starter, but talented freshmen Lexi O’Dell and Kari Shrewsbury will give Hill plenty of options at striker or wing.
Not only does the attack look strong, but so does the defense, anchored by junior Kristen Brinkley. She’s started every game since she was a freshman.
“Kristen is very dependable,” Hill said. “She’s not the type of keeper who will wow you. She’s not tall or aggressive, but she commands the area and doesn’t take a lot of risks.”
Another three-year starter is junior sweeper Cheyanne Carr. Experience, along with quickness and flat-out speed, make her a good one.
Junior stopper Courtney White, better known for her basketball ability, worked hard last season to become a good player.
“As the season wore on it was like Courtney flipped a switch,” Hill said. “When she understood what was around her and what she could do, we became a much better team.”
The other defensive starters are both three-year starters. Left back Kassie Catron is a senior and a natural left-footed player. She has raw speed and is a good tackler. Hill said junior right back Crysta Meekins will “stick her nose in and challenge for the ball. She gives as good as she receives.”
Freshmen Hailey Reed and Maya Klein will be players to watch for the future on defense.
PikeView led Fairmont Senior 1-0 with 10 minutes to go last season in the state semifinals, but surrendered two goals to lose 2-1.
Hill, named state coach of the year by both by the W.Va. Soccer Coaches Association, and the National Federation of High Schools, won’t be surprised if the Lady Panthers get back to states.
“We have a mix of experience, athletic ability and soccer knowledge,” he said. “This team can have a lot of success, come postseason.”
— E-mail: dstillwell@