Tracy Raban arrived at PikeView two years ago and found immediate success, guiding the Panthers to the state tournament. She followed it up with a trip to the Class AAA semifinals last season.
Now she’ll face her toughest task in her third season – replacing all-staters Hannah Perdue and Anyah Brown. Replacing probably isn’t the right word as she doesn’t anticipate that happening.
“I don’t think there’s anyway to supplement the loss of those two key players,” Raban said. “You can’t replace those two and it’s a big loss to our program. Past those two we do have the other four kids that played significant minutes last year back. We’ve added hopefully one or two more kids to that mix. Hopefully we’ll be a more rounded team. I don’t know that we’ll have that go to scorer or athlete but I do think we have a more rounded team where we’ll have somebody step up night to night and do what we need done.”
Riley Meadows, Brooke Craft, Hannah Harden and Cat Farmer are amongst the returning players who flanked Brown and Perdue the last two seasons. Even if there’s no replacing those two, Raban will need to find a way to put other players in positions to help the team. It starts with breaking in a new point guard. Farmer, who played the position some last year, will get the first crack at it with some help from a new face.
“We have Cat Farmer returning and she’s going to be junior,” Raban said. “She’s not going to be able to do the whole job by herself but we do have a freshman in Joslyn Hall that was the middle school point guard and was very talented with lots of experience and plays travel ball on one of the local elite teams. I’m hoping she can step in and it’s asking a lot of a freshman but she’s got the capabilities and it might be one of those situations where we don’t start feeling comfortable with it until tournament time but there’s no better time to be clicking. We look at Cat Farmer and Joslyn Hall to fill the point guard roles.”
The rest of the Panthers aren’t helpless. Aside from Meadows who was a freshman last year, Craft and Harden played significant minutes the last two seasons. Raban hopes that game experience translates into success.
“We’re going to rely on those kids,” Raban said. “Brooke, Cat and Hannah, you’re looking at three years now of high school ball where they’ve started or played in every high school game they’ve been a part of so they have a bigger role now. They don’t have the freshman or sophomore excuse anymore, they’ve got to step up and be leaders of the team. They’re capable. As a whole our biggest thing will be chemistry and sorting roles. We need to find out who plays well together and it could take us – we could have ups and downs early on but I look for them to gel in February.”
One advantage PikeView has is most of the other teams in the section are reeling from losses. Shady Spring graduated seven seniors and Westside has struggled with a group the same age as Harden and Craft’s. Raban is betting on her team’s experience to help them establish themselves at the top of the new pecking order.
“We look at it and everybody lost somebody,” Raban said. “We lost our two main scorers but at the same time we’ve got four key returners coming back and three of them have been to the state tournament two years in a row. Riley Meadows had a good season as a freshman and she stepped up more as the season went on. Everyone lost a lot but we have more coming back than people think. There’s a lot of doubters but we just have to find our roles.”
Meadows, who enters her sophomore year will be tasked with taking on a bigger role. She led the team in scoring a couple of times and gave the Panthers a spark off the bench. She’ll likely need to carry the scoring load this season while handling the defensive attention that comes with that role.
“I think she has the capability to do it,” Raban said. “I think it’s going to be a learning experience for Riley because she is going to draw the other team’s best defenders. It might take her a little time to figure out how to handle that adversity and maybe trying to force things early on. But that’s where I think we have a widespread of players that can take that pressure off her but she’s going to have to be one of our leading scorers night in and night out for us to be successful.”
All things considered, Raban still has her eyes set on another berth in Charleston. There will be bumps along the way but having taken that trek several times she sees a way for the Panthers to extend their tournament streak to four in a row,
“I think with what we’ve got returning, it’s a matter of if we can come together as a team and battle the storms,” Raban said. “I think realistically, a shot at the sectional championship is realistic and the regional championship is another realistic goal and returning to the state tournament. We were able to win that first game in Charleston last year. I’m not going to go that far with this team this year but returning to the state tournament is a relasitc goal this year. We’ve got zero seniors on the team so we get to learn and get everybody back next year.”
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