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SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: Magna Vista Warriors
Inexperience a factor for Warrior teams
Magna Vista pitcher Jasmine Agee winds up to fire a pitch to home plate last week in the Warriors’ opener against Bassett. Agee is expected to be a leader for the Warriors this season. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Thursday, April 3, 2014
By DEREK MAJOR - Bulletin Sports Writer
After a successful 13-9 campaign last year, Magna Vista softball coach Brian Brinegar lost five seniors and several players who decided not to join the team this year. Now, Brinegar has a team loaded with young players whom he’s trying to teach the ropes.
“Its been a challenge so far,” he said. “We only have returning four players, so we’re trying to get the players to learn new positions and the finer points of the game, (and) there’s a learning curve to everything we do, so it’s taking some time.”
One of the players who did return to the team is senior pitcher Jasmine Agee, who Brinegar feels is going to have a big impact on the younger players.
“She’s definitely going to be a leader for the rest of the team,” he said. “She has to stay positive when things aren’t going our way, because the rest of the team is going to look at her and follow her attitude.”
Despite a rocky 0-4 start, Brinegar has seen improvement from his team that shows its first win isn’t too far away.
“Our hitting as a team is definitely better than what I expected,” he said. “That’s something I thought would take a little more time for us to get a handle on. Our pitching has also been good so far this season.”
Brinegar doesn’t have many expectations for this season, but does hope the team can come together and turn some heads as it marches forward.
“We want to improve as the season goes on, and I also want them to battle with the other teams in the district (so) when the district tournament comes around, we can turn some heads and win a few games.”
Warriors baseball coach Rick Ramey enters his 24th season with a team sporting five sophomores, and with the weather having cut into practice time before the season, the youthful Warriors will have to learn on the job.
“We’re a young team; we start five sophomores and only one senior, so right now, we’re looking to gain some experience,” he said. “Since we’ve had such little time to practice and the games have started, we have to get our experience on the field as opposed to getting it in practice.”
Ramey doesn’t think it will take long for his team to get together because of its winning attitude, he said.
“One of our positives is our work ethic,” he said. “The guys have come together fast considering the little time we’ve had to practice due to rain and snow.
“We’re just looking to continue to work and build on what we did last season; each game is a process and we’re looking to get better everyday.”
Errors could be a problem for the Warriors. They had three against Dan River in an early-season game, which led to three unearned runs, and two more in their game against Bassett. However, Ramey expects the errors to drop as his team plays more games.
“We made three errors in the first inning of our game against Dan River, but we settled down as the game went on,” He said. “Our pitching has been good, and our hitting is better than I expected, so we just need to get better defensively, and that will come as we play more.”
Despite having young players, Ramey has have a few veterans to lean on this season, including senior pitcher Adrian Spears and shortstop Holden Watkins, who also will see time on the mound.
“Spears is a senior, and he’ll be big for us this year and Watkins will see as much time as possible on the mound as well,” Ramey said. “(Spears) got the win in relief in our doubleheader against Dan River ... D.J. Pritchett and Joe Hughes will also be big for us this season.”
John Athey is entering his second season as the Warriors’ coach, and he expects a senior-laden team to have a solid season.
“We’ve been a lot more focused this year, we’ve been working together much better, and being more responsible,” he said. “Being on time to practice like they’re supposed to ... this year they seem to be more focused coming into the season.”
Of the 21 players on the Warriors roster, 12 are seniors, but some of those seniors aren’t experienced, he said.
“We’ve been trying some different formations and looks and trying some guys in new positions and it’s just a matter of getting a feel for things,” Athey said. “I have a lot of athletes, but not necessarily a lot of soccer players, but we’ve worked on a lot of technical stuff in practice (such as) passing, dribbling; things like that and those things will make a difference in the end as far as ball possession.”
Last season, the Warriors finished with a winning record, and a lot of that had to do with goalkeeper Koby Johnson, who is looking for another strong year. However, Johnson isn’t the only one Athey is counting on this season.
“Our goal keeper Johnson, who’s been second-team all-state his sophomore and junior season, is probably my best player as far as soccer ability,” Athey said, adding that Johnson has committed to play at Radford next season.
Athey believes his team will be successful, but with three strong teams entering the Piedmont District, he knows that the competition just got a lot tougher.
“I think we have a shot to be very good,” Athey said. “But with G.W. (Danville) coming in and Franklin County and Bassett always (having) a good team ... It’s pretty wide open this year. I don’t think anyone will go through the season undefeated, so it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top.
“G.W. has a really good program and they’re tough to beat; Franklin County is a triple-A school, so they have more kids to choose from.”
However, Athey said, “I think we can compete with anyone.”
After two years as an assistant coach at Magna Vista, Roy Crews is entering his first year as head coach,and is implementing 4-3-2-1 system for his team after running a different formation system the past several years.
Crews believes it’s only a matter of time before his team picks up the system and uses it to win games.
“We went to a 4-3-2-1 system this year from 4-4-2, and they’re still learning it right now,” he said. “We also put some people in new positions but they’ve been grasping the concepts well.
“We’re still learning to play as a unit, and that’s probably our biggest obstacle because we haven’t had a whole lot of time coming into the season.”
G.W-Danville, Franklin County and Halifax County will pose a challenge for the Warriors, but Crews is excited about the opportunity it presents for his team to get better.
“It’s going to be challenging for us because we haven’t played a lot of (Group) 2A teams,” Crews said. “We haven’t played them as long as I’ve been here and they’re powerhouse teams.
“Halifax is always competitive; they’ve got a good team. Playing against larger schools is always tough, because they have more players to choose from, but it’ll make us better, we have to play better teams throughout the district this year.”
Crews does not know where his team will end up at the end of the season, but he is relying on his seniors to carry his team to a winning record.
“I haven’t really set any expectations,” Crews said. “I have a few goals: Improve on last year and give up less goals. But basically, I haven’t set a whole lot of expectations except learn the system and give me 110 percent.”
The Warriors will rely on their seniors, he added.
“Emily Ruiz and Kenzie Johnson are two of my more important seniors that will have to step up this year,” Crews said. “But I know they will play well this season.
“Overall, we have five seniors, and I’m looking to them to make an impact. “(They) have to show up big for us to have a good season,” Crews said.