France had its Three Musketeers, and Pahranagat Valley had its own version last season with Traci Strong, Kennedy Huntsman, and Bailee Hosier, and an NIAA state championship to cap it all off. But now they have graduated.
Thus, it is start again this year, only three seniors and a young team.
Whipple, Pahranagat Valley’s long time coach, has a record 16 state titles since 1985, and has led her team into the Division IV state finals 19 years in a row.
After going 29-2 last season, but now with a much younger team, what will the girls be able to do this year as they seek to defend their four straight league championships and the league tournament title they won last year on the way to the state title?
There is also something completely new for coach Whipple this season, she is coaching her own granddaughter, Karli Martin, daughter of assistant varsity and head JV coach Nikki Martin, who played for her mother in the late 1990s.
She has coached the daughters of some of her former players, most notably Bailee Hosier, Madison Harris, whose mothers all played for Whipple, but this will be the first time she has coached a granddaughter, and it will be her own.
Expected returning seniors for the Lady Panthers are Jamie Hansen, Jade Jewitt, and Sarah Prince. “We have a big group of freshman and sophomores, so we are looking to find the right skill set.” She said a setter is needed with the graduation of Kennedy Huntsman. Jamie Hansen will likely continue at the Libero position.
Being that the team is quite young this season, Whipple said, “We’ll take our beatin’ now and then we’ll figure it out, and hopefully we’ll hold our own in league play.
Two new teams have joined the Division IV Southern League this year, Beaver Dam of Littlefield, Arizona, and Quest Academy from Las Vegas, making it now an 11-team league.
She said Beatty was decent last year, losing to PVHS is the league tourney semi-finals last year, and Tonopah, the league runner-up figures to also be tough again.
But Tonopah lost their coach, Whipple noted, with the death last spring of Javier “Harvey” Gonzalez to cancer. “I don’t know how long that is going to throw them back, if they’ll be able to recover from that. It’s always an adjustment. It’s an unfortunate loss, too, because they were just getting the program built.”
Tonopah won the league and state tournament championships in 2012. “But,” she added, “they will be competitive. They are competitive, those kids remember that state title.”
Pahranagat and Tonopah play early in the season, Sept. 19 in Alamo, the same day at the two football teams play.