Most boys soccer programs are doing more than turning the page from one season to the next. Some are starting new chapters, with new coaches and an unprecedented turnover in top players.
“I really think this year will be interesting,” Mt. Spokane coach Ryan Campanella said. “A lot of teams lost some key players.”
This may be the toughest race to predict in years. Even the coaches are split, but give a slight nod to a Central Valley team that finished fifth last year.
That’s partly because of the 22 first- and second-team All-GSL selections from a year ago, not a single player is back.
The race could get almost as messy as the field at Mead, where CV visits the Panthers in an early-season showdown Friday afternoon.
“It’s a pit,” said Mead coach Kevin Houston , whose field was mostly dry until snow and rain fell Tuesday.
The regular season began Wednesday night.
“We graduated 12 seniors, so we’re pretty young with five seniors coming back who have playing time,” said Houston, whose team tied Ferris for the regular-season title last year. “That’s the biggest key – to keep them injury-free.”
Houston is counting on leadership from defenders Andy Pybus and Niko Carmon, and midfielders Alex Hakes and Corey Taisey.
Lewis and Clark reached the state playoffs last year and returns seven starters, the most in the league. GSL defensive MVP Ben Hagood is gone, but the Tigers have Seattle Pacific-bound Cody Lang in goal. Veterans Dane Lennon, Ben Thompson and Blake Gustafson are in the back line, but LC will have to replace most of its goal scoring.
Another playoff team with high hopes is Mt. Spokane, which fell to Eastmont in the regionals, but returns six starters and a league-high 14 letterwinners.
“I’ve talked to some other coaches, and Mt. Spokane has some talented kids and should do well,” Houston said.
Ferris reached the state playoffs again last season, but Robin Crain, last year’s GSL Coach of the Year, returns only two starters and is picked to finish in the middle of the pack. Crain is looking for help from newcomers Jake Wagner, Connor Ourada and Clayton Paull.
At University, the Titans return six starters from a team that finished 5-6 a year ago and reached the 3A district playoffs. Experience will also come from 14 letterwinners.
New coaches include Shadle Park’s Donavon Hodgson, who coached the Riverside boys for 10 years and girls for six seasons, recording 10 playoff appearances.
John Marshall, a 20-year coaching veteran, takes over at North Central.
Rogers returns four lettermen from last year.
It’s easy to see why East Valley is the preseason favorite: Two of the three returning all-leaguers – midfielder Dustin Ferger and forward Adam Talley – are back from a team that won the league last year with a 10-2 record and reached the state tournament semifinals behind a shutdown defense and timely scoring from Talley.
“I think we have the potential to do better,” said EV coach Jeff Paulus, who notes that Cheney and his own squad may be the top two teams in the state.
“We can’t get to the state semifinals without playing them,” said Paulus, whose team finished third at state last year
Talley, a junior, was a dominant force in the GNL last year.
He already has a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Medical Lake last week.
On Tuesday, the Knights stayed perfect with a 10-0 win over Deer Park as Talley added two goals and two assists.
Cheney also was 10-2 last season, but fell to Pullman in the district semifinals. The Blackhawks return seven starters and 14 letter winners, and showed their strength in a 5-1 win over West Valley last week.
Head coach Mark Kiver sees plenty of potential, but said “It all depends on how the returning upperclassmen come together.”
Pullman returns just two starters from a team which lost 1-0 to EV for the district title. Doug Winchell is 67-31 in five seasons and returns the league’s top goalkeeper in senior Chris Hamlin.
At West Valley, coach Gabe Escobar is counting on eight returning starters to improve on last year’s 4-8 season that included a district playoff appearance.
Clarkston is counting on five returning starters to move up the standings.
Deer Park’s Rob Champoux was the coach of the year for getting the Stags to the district playoffs.
This year he’s counting on a “strong work ethic” and returning second-team all-GNL midfielder Seth Nelson.
Medical Lake returns three starters. Coach Zane Higgins cites a strong core group, but some key positions lack experience
|GSL Predicted finish||7. Gonzaga Prep|
|1. Central Valley||4. University||8. Shadle Park|
|2. Mead||5. Mt. Spokane||9. North Central|
|3. Lewis and Clark||6. Ferris||10. Rogers|
|GNL Predicted finish||5. Clarkston|
|1. East Valley||3. Pullman||6. Medical Lake|
|2. Cheney||4. West Valley||7. Deer Park|