Park City girls soccer kicks off its season with new players and ‘our work cut out for us’
The Miners were 9-8 last season
Park City’s girls soccer team’s home game against Fremont on Thursday will not only mark the beginning of the season for the Miners but also signal the return of prep sports to Park City for the 2021-22 school year.
Even though the academic year doesn’t start until Aug. 19, exactly two weeks after the season opener, Miners coach Tom Merchant is tasked with the challenge of having a competitive team ready to roll Thursday at 10 a.m.
That won’t be easy.
For one, the Miners graduated 12 seniors from last year’s squad, producing a blank slate for 2021. Park City went 9-8 last season and was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by top-seeded Viewmont with a 1-0 loss. The Miners now find themselves in a new, stacked region with reigning state champion Olympus and semifinalists Brighton and Murray.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Merchant said. “We’re going to see how we can build the team together. I think our strength will be in unity and working with each other, so building that and building that trust in one another, that’s where we’re going to start. And then we’ll see what pieces we have and what pieces we need, and hopefully we can build a really strong program.”
One of the keys for Park City in the beginning of the season will be finding the right combination of players and creating a cohesive unit because of the limited practice time it’s had together so far. Tryouts started July 26, just 10 days before the opener. Merchant said that Monday was the first time that the varsity squad has practiced together because of limited field availability due to the Park City Extreme Cup last weekend.
“A lot of this is not only figuring out where their skills are best suited but also where the personalities of the players are going to click the best, so it’s complex in that way,” Merchant said.
Fremont is coming off an 11-9 campaign in Class 6A last year that ended in a 2-0 loss in the semifinals of the state playoffs, providing Park City a quality opponent right off the bat. While the tough scheduling might help Park City’s RPI — used in playoff seeding — come the end of the season, it might not be the best opportunity for the Miners to tinker with what works and what doesn’t.
“(It’s) sort of unfortunate in that it’s harder to test out what players are going to be strong in different positions, how we might do things differently because the results matter from the start,” Merchant said. “That’s unfortunate in a lot of ways just because early season you’d like to get a lot of kids in and try different things, and we probably will anyway.”
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The Wildcats trailed at halftime, but 30 unanswered points gave South Summit a 42-27 win over Emery.