Most of the dye-jobs are gone now, but the attitude that brought them is still rooted in the psyche of the Central Valley boys soccer team.
“It all starts with the seniors,” says head coach Andres Monrroy, whose team is more substance than style these days.
For the first time in five years, the Bears – 11-3 and winners of four straight – are headed to the State 4A playoffs, which open today with a home match at 5:30 p.m. against Emerald Ridge of Puyallup. If the Bears win that one, they will host a quarterfinal game that might bring the Bears back to their, uh, roots.
Before this season started, the players dyed or bleached their hair.
“Bleaching their hair, that was the seniors’ idea of community,” Monrroy said. “They wanted me to do it if they won the GSL, but we didn’t.
“But if we make the final four, I might do it.”
Helped by playoff experience last year and a strong senior class, the Bears came into the season as the preseason favorite to win the Greater Spokane League.
“We were picked number one for a reason, but it was going to be up to us,” Monrroy said.
But style points didn’t count in the standings. The Bears lost 3-2 early in the season to Mead; a late-season, overtime loss to Lewis and Clark led to a team meeting. By then most of the hair colors were back to normal.
“It’s not that we weren’t playing well or playing hard,” Monrroy said. “It was just being inconsistent.
“Now we are playing with consistency.”
That and a few tweaks in personnel – including high-energy reserve Isaiah Van Voorhuis – and relying on seniors such as Lucas Schneidmiller, Chris Stokesbary, Alex Renz and Justin Alcala.
“I told them, ‘We’re only going as far as you guys lead us,’ ” Monrroy said.
Lately, it’s been defense that’s carried CV. Since the loss to LC, the Bears have outscored opponents 14-1. At district, they beat Ferris 2-0 and LC 3-0 for the right to host Chiawana last weekend.
The wins over Ferris and LC avenged regular-season losses and guaranteed home matches through the quarterfinals if the Bears keep winning.
“We’re definitely peaking at the right time,” Monrroy said. “Our first goal was to win the GSL, and we were disappointed not to win it.
“No disrespect to the other teams, but we felt we were the best team coming into the season.”
That was never more evident than Saturday, when the Bears trailed Chiawana 1-0 at halftime, then changed tactics, outhustled the visitors in the second half and went on to a 2-1 win.
Like tonight’s opponent, the Bears had never seen or scouted Chiawana. “I like it because you don’t know what to expect,” said Alcala, who figured in both goals with an assist and the game-winner.
“You have to adapt to the game, so it’s more of a challenge that makes it more fun.”
The buildup this year has mirrored Monrroy’s efforts with the program as a whole.
“Which is 110 percent hard work, leadership and sportsmanship. We work hard and work as a team,” Monrroy said.
“The first year, in 2007, I didn’t feel it was my team quite yet. It was very talented, but we didn’t play my style.”
Which is funny, because if the Bears win two more, Monrroy will be adapting his hairstyle to his players’.