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Derrck Mahone/Douglas County Sentinel Chapel Hill coach Katie Wolff says her team has some offensive weapons that should be beneficial to the Panthers challenging for a region title.

Katie Wolff has plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

The Chapel Hill Panthers return eight starters from the best team in school history. Last season, the Panthers finished as region runner-up and advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs.

Chapel Hill returns plenty of offensive firepower with seniors Tierra Gilchrist and Devyn Thompson and junior Kristin Beasley.

The trio combined for 47 goals and 30 assists as the team averaged 6.1 goals for an 18-3 season.

“We are pretty much a seasoned group on the offensive side,” Wolff said. “We have the clientele, meaning players, that can get the job done. With eight starters back, we are definitely excited about the season.”

The Panthers lone Region 5-AAAA loss was 3-2 in double overtime to LaGrange, which cost them the region championship. However, they advanced through the postseason to the semifinals before a loss at St. Pius to end the season.

“We have a lot of talent to be one of the top teams,” said Gilchrist, the returning leading scorer with 25 goals last season. “We just have to stay focus and keep working hard.”

The Panthers will get their first test on today when they take on Lithia Springs in a scrimmage at 5:30 p.m. Chapel Hill travels to Alexander on Tuesday for the season-opener against the defending Region 5-AAAAAA runner-up.

Both teams process a lot of talent so it should be a good test. The Panthers will play seven non-region games before their March 6 region opener at home against Troup.

Chapel Hill will use the first seven non-region matches to get use to playing without Brandi Peterson, the region player of the year and leading scorer from a year ago.

Peterson plays high-level club soccer that doesn’t allow her to play high school. Last season she dominated with 41 goals and 25 assists. She has committed to signing with TCU on Wednesday during National Signing Day.

“Devyn and I will have to step up now,” Gilchrist said. “We still have some strong players and an opportunity to be good.”

In addition to Thompson and Peterson, Wolff is confident that juniors McKenna Warren and Kristin Beasley can be contribute to the team’s success. Wolff is also looking for junior Kali Morrow to step up after playing in 20 matches and scoring seven goals.

Last season, Warren started 18 games and had seven goals and 12 assists, most coming on free kicks.

“This year we are coming for the championship,” Panthers senior Alexys Phenix said. “We have been working real hard for it. Brandi was a big part of the our team. We will have focus on our speed and everybody has to give 110 percent every day.”

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