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Wenatchee High School soccer goalie Nyah Hughes blocks a shot during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. This is her first year starting as a varsity goalie.

WENATCHEE — The Panthers have a good nucleus of players returning this year from a team that finished second in the Big 9 last season. There are seven returning starters and 12 returning lettermen.

Wenatchee Head Coach John Springer, now in his seventh season, believes Wenatchee will be very competitive in the Big 9 this season.

“Much of our defense is returning. We have returners in every position. We’ve lost some offensive punch. Jaden Griggs was with us four years and set many offensive school records,” Springer said. “We lose some of our offensive push, but I expect our defense to be as good or better. I expect other girls to step up and fill the void offensively.”

Wenatchee was 12-5 last season, 9-3 in the Big 9. Moses Lake was the regular season champ at 13-4 overall and 10-2 in conference play.

The Panther season ended with a 3-0 loss to West Valley in the District semifinals.

Springer said it is tough to say which teams will lead the Big 9 since there are a lot of new coaches.

He said all the teams lost key players.

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Wenatchee High School soccer defender Alli Clark will lead a strong defense for the panthers, here during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

“I think it will be fairly wide open. West Valley is always competitive. Eastmont went on a nice run in the playoffs, but they lost some key players. I think everybody is in a similar boat. Everybody is going to be filling out new teams,” he said.

There were a lot of competitive teams at the JV level last season, Springer noted. He believes Eastmont will be right there. Moses Lake is always competitive like West Valley. Davis is young, but they could be a surprise team.

The Panthers will rely on their defense, he said.

“We have very strong defense again. That has been our biggest strength the past several years. I feel good about that. We’ll need girls to step up into those roles,” Springer said. “We only have two seniors on varsity. We need them to step up, build their confidence, and capitalize on the offensive opportunities when we get them.”

Wenatchee has a jamboree today at Cashmere. Their first game is at home on Saturday at Central Valley from Spokane. CV beat Wenatchee 4-3 in Spokane last season.

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Wenatchee High School soccer coach John Springer talks about tryouts with three year letterman Yards Sanchez during practice on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019.

“That will be an extremely competitive game. CV is an excellent program. That will be a big challenge,” he said. “It will be a chance to see what we need to do for the regular season.”

Ian Dunn: 664-7157