Lady Panther Soccer Starting Off Right


By Harrison Tarr

For the Observer

In any high school sport, tradition and history are of utmost importance to the success of a program. Establishing a culture of winning, playing for one another and bringing glory to a school is imperative for sustained excellence. For head coach Dennis Jones and the rest of the Smiths Station girls soccer program, 2022 appears to be an effort to bolster their brand as one of the premier programs in 7A.

The silver and black started their season in impressive fashion, earning a 3-0 victory over Benjamin Russell in what their head coach described as a complete-game effort.

“We pretty much kind of dominated possession in that game,” Jones said. “I think they only got one shot on goal and my goalkeeper Charlie McDonald made a really good save on that shot and kept our clean sheet.”

According to Jones, the win over the Wildcats kicked off a pre-region schedule which is designed with development in the forefront.

“We give ourselves plenty of non-conference opponents,” Jones said. “We actually just went to a tournament this past weekend. We get in two tournaments and plenty of non-conference games before we get into conference play. We should have plenty of experience.”

Obtaining experience will be vital to the team’s success throughout the year as the Panthers graduated a staggering nine seniors from the final four team in 2021.

“We lost about nine seniors last year,” Jones said. “Five of them were starters and three of them came off of my defensive line.”

After losing three defenders, the silver and black will look significantly different on defense and Jones tasks a new trio of talent with the task of keeping opponents at bay.

“I’m playing three new girls that have never played high school defense,” Jones said. “They’ve played defense for their club teams so they’ve got experience.”

Jones says that making defensive adjustments has taken top priority for he and his staff thus far.

“I guess that’s kind of my focal point right now,” Jones said. “Trying to make sure my defense gets shaped up.”

According to their head coach, the Panther’s defensive abilities were key in their run to last year’s final four; he believes that the 2022 squad will rely more heavily upon its offense.

“We’re not as strong defensively,” Jones said. “But we’re stronger offensively. We were not a very strong offensive team last year but I think we’ve got more firepower last year.”

With more promise on offense than in years past, Jones is excited to be able to plug standout junior Jenna Bruce into his lineup; he claims she can play any position on the field with efficiency.

“The main player to look out for is Jenna Bruce,” Jones said. “I think she really has the potential to be a Division-I player. She can play any position on the field. If I need her to score, I can put her up top. If I need her to control the ball at midfield, if I need her in defense, I can do all of that.”

In an effort to continue writing the next chapter in their program history book, the Panthers must now regroup and prepare for their next challenge: the Mustangs  of Stanhope Elmore. Smiths Station will play host to its out-of-region foe on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. CST. The match will be streamable on the NFHS network.


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