Fans might have trouble recognizing the players on the field for the Park City High School girls' soccer team this year. After all, the Miners lost 13 seniors from last year's squad.
But don't fall asleep on this year's team, coach Chip Cook said. On Monday, after the first day of team tryouts, Cook was very confident in the Miners' chances to make yet another deep playoff run in 2014.
"I think we have a lot of talent coming back," she said. "Some of the younger players, just from what we've seen in day one of tryouts, have grown quite a lot. We have a lot of returning players who were on varsity last year. I think they're ready to step up and take on more of a leadership role."
So, Cook said, the Miners aren't going to be in a rebuilding stage this year. Instead, they'll be aiming to regroup, plug in new players and get back to the later rounds of the playoffs again.
It'll take some time to get there, Cook admits, but that's what the preseason is for.
"Preseason is critical," she said. "We want to challenge ourselves, but we don't want to get to the point where we get crushed. This group has a ton of talent. It's just going to be about understanding their roles and understanding the system we're playing in and playing hard. The outcome is never the goal during preseason. It's nice if we win a couple here or there, but if we can stay close to those 5A giants and improve along the way, then we feel really good about where we are in the preseason.
Some of the big names on Park City's preseason schedule include Bountiful, Skyline, Wasatch, Alta and Provo.
Though those games will be tough, Cook said she hopes the team emerges from the early schedule ready to dominate the Region 10 portion of the schedule.
"We've got to focus on getting kids some crucial playing time, figure out our lineups and systems," she said. "Some kids are going to be asked to step into different roles this year hopefully they embrace it.
With a small region, featuring only five teams, Cook said she's expecting mostly the same thing from Juan Diego, Uintah, Union and Morgan.
"Every year is a new year, but I think it's probably going to be the usual suspects," she said. "Juan Diego always puts together a strong team. Morgan, Union and Uintah are always very athletic if they get a couple of really good players, they challenge us."
Offensively, though the Miners lost many of their goal scorers, Cook is confident that returners like Lindsay Gordon, Reese Pearson, A.J. Casey and others will pick up the slack.
"We've got some kids with some incredibly strong shots," she said. "I'm not worried about it it's just learning to connect with each other to create the opportunities. I'm more concerned with creating the opportunities the goals will take care of themselves if we just create chances as a team and as a unit."
Defensively, Cook will rely on returning goalkeeper Hannah Hyatt to anchor a young backline.
"Our backline might be on the younger side," she said. "Giving that backline the confidence that they have someone behind them who can handle any shots is important. What we're really looking for is to build up our defense and make them cohesive and have them communicate with each other so that Hannah's, or whoever is in goal, job is that much easier."
Overall, Cook thinks teams are going to look at all the players the Miners lost from last season and expect a down year from Park City. But, she added, that's fine with her.
"I think people are going to underestimate us a little bit," she said. "I kind of like that. I like that role."
Park City's first game of the season is on Tuesday, Aug. 12, at the North 40 fields. The Miners will take on Bountiful at 4 p.m.
Park City Girls' Soccer Schedule