Sometimes the best way to meet expectations is simply to meet.
That’s worked out twice this season for the Mead boys soccer team, which is finding that a little urgency is a good thing as they hope for a deep run in regionals and state.
The Panthers, Greater Spokane League co-champions last year, came into spring with a talented, senior-dominated squad with high hopes.
Those hopes were quickly deflated in losses back in March, including 3-0 to Cheney. Self-doubt gave way to a little discussion with coach Kevin Houston.
“We looked at our weaknesses and set goals after the Cheney game and why they lost,” Houston said. “Then we listed the goals of where they expected to be, not just a top-three finish but of winning the GSL.
“And I told them that if they can play with the expectations I have of you, then I don’t see that you can’t have the goal of winning the GSL.”
Houston credits the seniors “who didn’t talk about the negatives of getting beat; all they could say was that we worked the ball well, and that we’ll work harder.”
The bar properly raised, the Panthers cleared it with ease, winning the GSL with an 8-1 record and a two-game advantage over the field.
Confidence was restored – perhaps a bit too much entering last week’s district match with Lewis and Clark. Mead led 2-0 early, but conceded an own goal just before halftime and eventually lost 4-3 in overtime in the 88th minute.
Panthers hadn’t given up more than one goal in the previous eight matches.
“We didn’t come out for LC; we just stopped with the fire that we had,” said senior forward Jared Fretheim, the Panthers’ leading scorer this year.
“That was a big wake-up call,” goalkeeper Eric Bjerkestrand said of the LC loss. “We realized we have to step it up for the playoffs, and play for the moment.”
It was also the right moment to meet – again.
Once again, Houston looked to his senior leadership, which includes three class valedictorians in Corey Taisey, Jake Gilbertson and Alex Hakes.
“We had a team meeting and we talked about where we need to go at this point,” Houston said. “We talked about the fact that we worked very hard to get to the spot where we are.”
Actually, they were in a tough spot for much of Tuesday’s loser-out District 4A match with Ferris, as the Saxons had the better of it for much of regulation before the scoreless match went to overtime.
But in a game between two teams that needed to bounce back, the last bounce went to Mead, as junior midfielder Dominic DeShazo scored the game winner on a deflection in the 88th – precisely the point in the game when the Panthers fell to LC.
“It’s nice to be on the right side of these overtime games,” Taisey said after the game – and after a postgame team meeting with Houston that instilled equal parts confidence and urgency as the Panthers (9-3) travel to Yakima on Saturday to face Columbia Basin Big Nine champion Davis.
“I’ve been telling them that we may be going into the regional game as a No. 3 seed, but we’re not a three-seeded team,” Houston said.
“And that’s what I had to remind them – that we are better than that and that we have to play to our abilities. And if we play to our abilities we can take them by surprise.”