The Saratoga Sun -

Lady Panthers go 4-1 at home invite


Saratoga High School hosted a tournament Friday and Saturday that served as the first game of the season for a number of schools, including local rivals, and despite strong competition finished the weekend with a 4-1 win-loss ratio.

The Lady Panthers finished out their home tournament having lost only to the Little Snake River Valley (LSRV) Rattlers of Baggs, defending state champions from 2016. By losing only one match over the course of the weekend, the team showed it had the mettle to compete with the best this year, according to Shaylee Love, head coach of the Saratoga Panthers.

“Baggs is going to be the one to reckon with this year,” Love said. “They’re a fantastic program.”

Love said she likes what she sees from the relatively young crew Saratoga has fielded this year. Despite the fact the Rattlers are defending champions and did not lose many players to graduation, the Lady Panthers won a game against them.

“We took a set from Baggs yesterday and that for us was a high because when you’re playing a team coming off a state championship, you know they’re good especially when they don’t lose a lot of girls,” Love said. “So to take a set from them was a huge boost for our girls and I think they know they can do it now.”

Love also felt that facing off against LSRV first was a good test for her young team.

“To have that level of competition right away is really great so our girls know what they have to do,” Love said. “You don’t want to play a bunch of teams that are just starting to rebuild and they don’t have any of that consistency quite yet.”

The team did not have the chance at this weekend’s tournament to face off against Valley rival Encampment, and doing so will be a challenge for the team when they play the Tigers in a couple weeks, Love said.

“They have some solid athletes, too and we’re going to have to rise up with them as well,” she said.

Last week during practice, Love said her team had not been completely flushed out yet, saying she had not decided which players would fill which positions. The tournament, she said, gave her a much better idea of how things will be shaping up going into the future.

Love said currently, she has a nine-person rotation including a libero, and so far it is working pretty well for the team. There were some tweaks to the team she made over the weekend, and over the next couple weeks there may be some other changes–especially in the team’s transitions.

That kind of adaptability will be key as the team faces off against opponents, Love said.

“Hanna is young too and the thing with Hanna is we beat them in two sets pretty easily,” she said. “But next week is going to be different because Jackie (Smith, head coach for Hanna) always puts together a scrappy team, so we know that we’re going to have to come together and play hard against them.”

The Lady Panthers next face off against the North Park Wildcats of Walden Thursday at 4:30 in Walden. Friday, the team will face the Lady Miners of Hanna at 4 p.m. in Saratoga.


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