Spotlight: Providence (NC) Finds Challenge to Defend Title

By Ryan Rohde

Last season did not start out exactly the way the Providence Panthers (NC) wanted it to. Providence knew they had a talented squad, but a 14-6 season opening loss to Charlotte Country Day brought new focus to the team.

The Panthers reeled off 22 straight wins, including avenging the Country Day loss, and captured the class 4A state championship.

"We learned a lot from last year: don't take anything for granted," head coach William Humphrey said. "This year we are a lot more focused and we are coming in with a chip on our shoulder."

Being defending champs always puts a big target on your back, but Humphrey is confident his team can handle the pressure.

"It is always hard to maintain what we've done, but this group is focused and on track,' said Humphrey. 'We know the past does not mean anything right now."

The 2010 Panthers return 7 of 10 starters, but replacing those three spots will not be an easy task. Attackman Tucker Hull, F/O Greg Basch and goalie Pete Wesselman were all lost to graduation.

"We lost the middle of the field, basically the heart of the team," said Humphrey.

A player of Hull's caliber cannot be replaced, but that does not mean the Panthers are short on firepower at attack.

Konnor Scroggins returns, after garnering second team all-state honors last year. The Hobart signee will be relied upon for his leadership and scoring ability.

Alongside Scroggins will be Gettysburg recruit Steven Ridolfo. Rounding out one of the most dangerous attack units in the state is John Leboyne, a transfer from New York who is a great addition to an already talented group.

The Midfield will run through Braxton Deaver. The Duke recruit is an outstanding athlete who stands 6'5" and 215 lbs. Dylan Brokaw and Matt Brady will also be looked upon for a scoring punch from the midfield.

Defensively, Humphrey expects this group to be better than they were a year ago. With all three starters returning, the experience will be invaluable especially with new faces in goal. Humphrey will have an alternating goalie system, at least to start the season.

The Panthers are again among the favorites to win the state championship. They opened the season with a 13-3 win over Western Guilford on March 4. The Panthers are already already off to a better start in 2010 than they were in 2009, which might be a bad sign for opposing teams.

2010-03-05



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