The rainiest March in Spokane history hasn’t played well among boys soccer coaches, who’ve done their best to adapt to muddy practice facilities.
“At least it’s been an even playing field,” Lewis and Clark coach Micah Lamb joked, although he really wasn’t laughing.
“Actually, it’s pretty frustrating,” said Lamb, whose Tigers are 2-1 and tied for second place in Greater Spokane League play. “We’ve practiced maybe once a week between league matches and tried to find a place to practice indoors for 40 guys without tearing up the place.”
For LC, that’s meant renting practice time at Albi Stadium.
“We haven’t been able to have that time on our home field, but, hopefully, we can get back to our routine next week,” Lamb said.
That includes a match on April 13 at Hart Field against league-leading Mead (3-0), which has also been displaced from its home field. Coincidentally, both teams won during a doubleheader at Albi on March 23 that was scheduled by Mother Nature, not the GSL.
“Practices haven’t been as clean as we’d hoped,” admitted Panthers coach Kevin Houston, whose team has played all three of its league matches on artificial turf.
University is also 2-1 despite the muck.
“We’ve practiced indoors for the most part,” said Titans coach Neil Funkhouser, who conceded that special indoor balls and turf will go only so far to simulate outdoor conditions.
The key is playing style, Funkhouser said: The Titans’ short passing game plays well inside the gym.
That may have given U-Hi an advantage in its GSL opener. The Titans beat Mt. Spokane 5-0.
“We really emphasize possession and we did it in that game in particular,” Funkhouser said.
Last week, also at home, they beat defending GSL champ Ferris 1-0 in overtime on a goal by Chris Donich three minutes into extra time.
In between, they journeyed to Albi Stadium and fell to Lewis and Clark 2-0.
“We don’t really travel well,” said Funkhouser, whose team gets Rogers next week at home before playing surprising Shadle Park on April 13 at Albi.
In the Great Northern League, Cheney is in first place despite a “field so swamped that we were practicing on any parcel of grass we can find,” coach Mark Kiver said.
“Early on we had snow on our field, but I think that’s just part of the mental toughness,” he said.
GSL corner kicks
It’s early, but Mead is the only unbeaten team in the GSL. After nonleague losses to Moses Lake and Cheney, the Panthers have found their footing.
“We had a rough start,” said Houston, but we had a team meeting and we talked about what their goals were. It was my job to make them meet the goals they set for themselves.”
Speaking of goals, the Panthers’ Jared Fretheim has five, including a hat trick in a 3-2 win over Central Valley. In a 2-1 win over Gonzaga Prep last week, midfielder Corey Taisey set up Dominic DeShazo with the eventual game-winner.
So far, the Panthers are succeeding with “high energy and pressure,” Houston said.
Lamb sees a wide-open race.
“I feel there’s going to be a lot of teams right in the mix,” he said. “The team that wins (the GSL) may lose two or three matches.”
GNL corner kicks
This week’s Great Northern League standings are worth a double-take: Cheney has seemingly lapped the field.
At 6-0 in the GNL and 9-0 overall, the Blackhawks are halfway there, thanks to a huge 2-1 shootout win last week at East Valley.
In second place are EV and Pullman, both 2-1 and both early victims of the Blackhawks, who’ve scored 23 goals and given up just one in league play.
“We knew it would be tough,” Kiver said. “They (EV) have same talented players that we have to keep in check.”
The Blackhawks did that. After Evan Cook scored for Cheney just before halftime, the Knights equalized at the 60-minute mark on Kurtis Kannenwischer’s goal off an assist from Adam Talley.
After holding off the Knights for the last 20 minutes, the Blackhawks won the shootout 4-1. Of course, Cheney and EV will meet again, probably more than once.
“We just remind them that it’s going to be a bigger game each time,” Kiver said
For now, Kiver is trying to “emphasize team defense and make sure we make smart decisions out there.”