KNOXVILLE — Coming off their best season in school history, the Knoxville girls soccer couldn’t follow up their historic 2019 season with spring sports being shut down to due COVID-19 last year. Now the Panthers are back on the pitch and look to continue their winning ways in 2021.
Matt Ritchhart enters his fourth season leading the Knoxville girls with a 24-12 career record, including a school-best 14-4 mark in 2019 that saw the Panthers go undefeated in conference play and win 13 games in a row before falling in regional play.
Returning for the Panthers will be seniors Marley McKay, Melody Torres and Jamie Beal along with juniors Taylor Jones, Charlee Heffron, Abby Wadle, Dani Johnston, Brook Moore and Raegan Cook.
McKay will be key for the Panthers in the midfield. She is a big-time playmaker for them as she led the team with 12 assists in 2019 along with six goals.
Torres will be on the back line by she has offensive ability with three goals and one assist as a sophomore.
After seeing all-state forward Emma DeJoode lose her senior season in 2020 after scoring 30 goals as a junior, Knoxville will need a new go-to goal scorer this year. Coach Ritchhart looks to have Jones in mind for that role after missing her freshman year due to injury and her sophomore season due to the pandemic. Now a junior, Jones will be eager to finally take the field for the Panthers and try to find the back of the net.
Speaking of the net, Knoxville will be very happy to see their starting goalie return this season. Wadle, now a junior, started with the Panthers as a freshman in net and enjoyed a very good season posting 11 clean sheets and an 85.6% save percentage.
Senior Jayce Hughes, junior Kira Deaver and sophomore Hanna Linsley are newcomers that should all carve out a role with the Panthers.
“Our strength will be our offensive depth, right now we are looking to solidify the defense,” Ritchhart said. “We hope to be the team to beat in conference and compete with bigger schools on our schedule like we did two years ago.”