Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 23, 2012

Panthers defy injury cloud, rally behind Hill's scoring

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — PikeView lost Hope, but didn’t lose hope.

When the PikeView girls soccer team lost standout performer Hope Nester early in the season, the Panthers knew trouble could lie ahead.

Maybe not.

“We were kind of down on ourselves, ‘What are we going to do?’” PikeView senior Laura Hill said. “But we have just completely stepped up and played incredibly this year beyond what anyone expected.”

Hill has been a big reason why. All she has done is set an unofficial state record for goals scored with 57, passing the 53 scored last season by Nester.

That was a goal Hill set prior to the season, but her mother wasn’t so sure.

“Actually, I made a comment to Mom at the beginning of the year and she said, ‘No, I wouldn’t get your hopes up, you are probably not going to reach that,’” said Hill, with a smile. “It is kind of fun to prove her wrong.”

PikeView will seek its third regional title in the last four years today when the Panthers (15-4-2) play Pocahontas County (11-5-1) at Nicholas County High School in Summersville. Kickoff is slated for 5:30 p.m.

The winner will advance to the Class AA/A state tournament slated for Nov. 2-3 in Beckley.

“State championship is the goal,” Hill said. “That is what it is.”

These teams have played once this season, with PikeView winning 1-0. The Panthers have won two straight and six of their last eight, while the Warriors have captured five wins in a row by a combined tally of 21-3.

PikeView reached this point last year, but lost to Shady Spring, ending their two-year run of regional titles.

“We lost to Shady last year. It was a good game and it was disappointing,” Hill said. “This year we are hoping to beat Pocahontas and we are hoping to advance through there and go back to state.”

Hill has 57 goals and 16 assists this season, and 113 goals and 72 assists in four seasons with the Panthers. Not only are the goals an unofficial state single-season record, but last year’s 34 assists tied an unofficial state high mark, earning her the Class AA/A Midfielder of the Year award.

She has also been a three-time all-state and Coalfield Conference selection, with a fourth no doubt on the way.

No wonder Hill’s father, Sam Hill, is proud to be his daughter’s coach with the Panthers. Her mother, Angie, is an assistant for the Panthers. Sam Hill has been selected as the West Virginia girls soccer coach of the year by the National Federation High School Coaches Association.

“The biggest thing for Laura is she has made a lot of commitment to be a good player,” Sam Hill said. “She has played year round since she was a little bitty girl and a handful of years ago she committed to this idea that she wanted to play collegiately and wanted to develop the skill set to do that and she has been fortunate enough to be able to get to that point.”

Playing for her parents has its advantages, for the most part.

“It is interesting to say the least,” Hill said. “I just feel pressure sometimes when all the soccer talk and the game talk comes home with me and I can’t really get away from it.”

Not a problem. She’ll continue playing next season at West Virginia Wesleyan, reaching a lifelong dream.

“I have always wanted to play in college, it is fun to be able to continue and go play,” said Hill, who serves as a coach on the field for the Panthers.

“She just simply loves the game, you like being around kids that like playing the sport that they dedicated themselves too and having success for it and her understanding of the play on the field is probably better than mine,” Sam Hill said. “That helps us as a team read the play better and maybe get some things out of it that if we were exclusively depending on my limited knowledge we probably wouldn’t get on it.”

Hill is far from all that PikeView has on its side of the field, and no one knows that better than her.

“Having my teammates behind me, I can’t go get the ball, they have to give it to me,” Laura Hill said. “It is always fun to score, it is fun to get the glory, but it is all my teammates that are behind me giving it to me.”

The lone seniors for PikeView are Hill and Charlotte Webster, who has 14 goals and 23 assists this season. That duo have combined for a school record 67 wins (67-17-5), four sectional titles, two regional championships, two Coalfield Conference crowns and two appearances in the state tournament.

“She has had a good career, we have been fortunate at PikeView to have some girls that play quality soccer,” said Sam Hill, after the Panthers hammered Bluefield 9-0 to win the sectional title last Thursday. “With the win tonight, Charlotte and Laura, rather they win another game or not, will end up as the winningest senior class that we have had.

“That is their 67th win tonight and there aren’t a lot of girls that play high school soccer that win 67 games over a four year career.”

The future is bright. The Panthers have received contributions from many, including junior Brooke Baker (4 goals, 7 assists), sophomore Courtney Gray (5 goals, 9 assists) and freshmen Madison May (9 goals, 14 assists) and Sophie Klein (9 goals, 5 assists).

Key defenders include Shyann Carr, Crysta Meekins, Kassie Catron and Courtney White, while Kristen Brinkley has been solid as PikeView’s keeper in goal.

No wonder Laura Hill has enjoyed her career on the PikeView pitch.

“It’s been great, we have always had success here,” Hill said. “All the teams I have been on have been great, my teammates have been great, just everything about it has been incredible.”

The same goes for Hill’s parents, who have been able to watch their daughter from the best possible location.

“It has just been a joy to be able to watch her play and unexpectedly in my lifelong path, I never expected to be her coach too,” Sam Hill said. “To have that opportunity with her is fantastic and I am tickled for her personally, as a coach and a parent.”

— Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com