Pioneer Valley coach Michael Bloodworth was expecting a rebuilding season for his Panthers this year.

The obstacles brought on by the coronavirus just made things even more difficult for the Panthers. 

"I have one returner," Bloodworth said. That one returner, though, is a good one.

Kiana San Juan, a nifty guard that can drive and shoot, has been averaging 15.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in the first five games of the season, which were all Pioneer Valley losses. 

Bloodworth says he has three players on the varsity team who played JV previously or would be playing JV this year. 

"Then I've got a whole flock of sophomores and I've got one freshman," he said. "A lot of youth, a lot of time to rebuild. That's pretty much where we're at. I like our fight. We only have one returning player so they fight hard. We're going through our growing pains and working. I like that one thing about our team, their fight."

Bloodworth says a big issue brought on by the pandemic that affects his team is athletes playing so many sports. He says there are five girls on his team that also play another sport as just about every sport is going on at the same time.

"I also had three players that didn't come back because they were focused on academics and are playing other sports," Bloodworth said. "We have all the sports jumbled up together and some kids decided they wanted to do better in school than play three sports. That's the challenge. I didn't have a lot of players coming back anyway because I lost eight seniors last year. We were going to be rebuilding regardless, but this is a good opportunity to gain some experience for this group."

With the young group the Panthers have, that's put more pressure on the team's top player, San Juan.

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"It can be stressful at times because we're still building up the chemistry," San Juan said. "But I'm assuming as the season moves along we'll build more of that chemistry. We're playing a bit sloppy, but once we play together more I think it'll be a smoother game."

San Juan is playing basketball and running track concurrently this spring. 

"At first we didn't think we'd have any sports," she said. "So, it's very tiring, but I'm just grateful to be able to play both sports and I love them both equally."

San Juan says she's got a simple goal for the team this spring: "Let's just get some wins," she said. 

Behind San Juan, freshman guard Marissa Morales has been finding some success on offense. She's averaging 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in 19 minutes a game. 

The Panthers started their season with a 47-43 loss to Morro Bay, followed by a 47-30 loss to the Pirates. They were then routed by Santa Maria 55-27 on April 22. The Panthers had a second-half lead against the Saints in their April 23 game, but Santa Maria pulled away for a 57-48 win. On Thursday, Pioneer Valley suffered a tough 56-50 loss on the road against the Greyhounds as Morales and San Juan each scored 15 points and sophomore Alysha Moreno added 10. The score from Friday's game against Atascadero wasn't available at press time.

The Panthers are set to play a non-league game at home against Santa Ynez on Friday. They then have four scheduled Ocean League games remaining, against Paso Robles and Templeton. 

Pioneer Valley went 13-15 last season in the tougher Mountain League. In 2018-19, Pioneer Valley finished 17-11 and 11-1 in the Ocean League, taking the league championship. Bloodworth was named the All-Area Coach of the Year that season.

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