Possession may be nine-tenths of a playoff spot Friday at Albi Stadium.
That’s when University and Shadle Park meet in a key Greater Spokane League game that will also go far in determining the shape of the 3A district playoffs.
Both clubs are 2-1 in league for the same reason: tight defense, timely counterattacks and a possession game that has frustrated opponents and the weather.
“The rainy March weather didn’t affect us at all,” said first-year Shadle Park coach Donavan Hodgson, whose team is the biggest surprise in the league so far.
He coached the boys team at Riverside for 10 years after graduating from Gonzaga, adding the Rams’ girls team halfway through, before getting the Shadle Park job this year. One of the first things he did was poll the Shadle players.
“They felt that offense was our strong point,” said Hodgson, who implemented an unusual 4-5-1 formation that admittedly doesn’t produce many shots on goal.
“But the ones we get, they’re good opportunities,” Hodgson said. “I’m a real big possession guy, and work on counterattacks.”
Those come from the two outside midfielders, who play almost as attacking wings and work on feeds from the defensive-oriented center midfielders.
Hodgson said the Highlanders have blended well as a team.
“They’ve really stepped it up,” said Hodgson, whose team recently played league-leading Mead to a 1-1 draw. “It was a good game, back and forth, but Mead did move the ball better than we did.”
University coach Nick Funkhouser said he’s impressed with the Highlanders’ back line, so “we’re going to have to be pretty creative.”
“They’re also a pretty good passing team,” Funkhouser said.
Big match in GSL
An even bigger match Friday will pit league-leading Mead (3-0) against Lewis and Clark (2-1). Mead’s Panthers have already defeated Central Valley (2-1), and face defending GSL champ Ferris today, though the 1-2 Saxons are struggling so far.
The Tigers will have home-field advantage of sorts at Hart Field, but this will be LC’s first match of the season at Hart, which was waterlogged until recently.
“It’s dry and green, at least,” said LC coach Micah Lamb, whose team didn’t practice during spring break.
Several Tigers had the chance to play in the Netherlands in a high-school tournament. “We were a bit sloppy in practice Monday, but hopefully we’ll figure things out,” Lamb said
And while Lamb promised not to look past today’s match with Mt. Spokane (1-2), he’s scouted Mead in two-plus games and appreciates the Panthers’ strong midfield and wing play.
Mead coach Kevin Houston said the Panthers had a strong practice Monday despite missing some players from vacation.
Keeping the focus
After beating East Valley two weeks ago, Cheney has become the hunted team in the Great Northern League.
The Blackhawks (8-0 Great Northern League, 10-0 overall) travel to Pullman on Thursday.
“We know this will be a tough game,” said Cheney coach Mark Kiver, whose team edged the Greyhounds 1-0 in Cheney.
That game was originally scheduled to be played in Pullman, but the Greyhounds’ field was unplayable.
“If at any point we start to check out, the other team is ready to pounce,” Kiver added. “We have to keep our focus and not let anything disrupt our game plan.”
This is a big week for the Greyhounds, who played defending GNL champ East Valley on Tuesday.
GSL corner kicks – Mead forward Jared Fretheim has six goals so far this year; his total was incorrectly reported last week. … Gonzaga Prep (1-2 GSL) needs a win at Central Valley (2-1) to stay in the thick of the playoff race.
GNL corner kicks – East Valley junior Adam Talley scored six goals and assisted on the Knights’ other two in an 8-0 GNL win over Medical Lake on Saturday. EV coach Jeff Paulus said it was the most goals for an EV player in the