Following a banner season that saw the Peninsula girls soccer team reach the CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinals, the Panthers are now entering a what coach Scotte Massey calls a 'trial-by-fire' period.
"We're going to start three freshmen, along with just two seniors and two juniors," Massey said. "We have a lot of confidence in those newcomers to be able to understand their roles in the system as they gain experience."
Even with its 1-2-2 start heading into Tuesday's nonleague match with North Torrance, Massey knows patience is the key with the lack of experience on the roster.
"There is no choice but to develop their game and mature as players behind solid leadership," Massey said of freshmen Gianna Rosato, Jenna Long and Audrey Yu who have already seen sufficient playing time.
Peninsula returns seven players from its 2017-18 undefeated Bay League season, four of whom were in the starting lineup, including seniors KK Schmidt and Isabelle Pack, junior Kamea Vierra-Lambert and sophomore Michelle Jeong.
Peninsula posted an overall record of 16-2-4, but Massey knows posting a similar record will be no easy feat.
"The Bay League is always so competitive, and crucial points seem to come one after another," Massey said. "Depending on how much parity there is in the league this year will determine how critical each game becomes from week to week."
Mira Costa is off to a 5-0 start heading into Tuesday's contests, while defending league champion Redondo Union has won four of its first five games. Palos Verdes has begun the year 3-1.
Peninsula opens league play Jan. 7 at Mira Costa, and plays at rival PV Jan. 15. The Panthers close the regular season hosting PV Jan. 30.
Regardless of its youth and inexperience, Massey still maintains a high and meet-able level of expectations for this years Panthers.
"We expect to compete as we play more games while trying to get this young team to come together as a unit," Massey said. "We're still looking to finish in the top three for another entry into the postseason."