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Bears have backs against the wall in GSL soccer race

Andres Monrroy can’t help but feel a little anxious today.

His Central Valley boys soccer team – district and 4A regional champions a year ago – are 3-2 in the Greater Spokane League heading into big matches this week against co-leaders Ferris and Mead.

One game behind doesn’t sound like much, especially when you consider that the Bears were 6-3 in league last year before reaching the state semifinals.

But the game has changed. This year, only the top two regular-season finishers have a chance to win district, while the third- and fourth-place teams will play a loser-out match the same night and likely will hit the road after that.

“What you do in the regular season really matters,” said Monrroy, whose team is at Ferris today and home against defending champ Mead on Friday. “Last year we peaked at the right time.”

That may be what Ferris is doing right now. The Saxons (4-1 in the GSL) earned a share of the league lead with a 1-0 win Friday over defending league champion Mead (also 4-1), the team that eliminated the Saxons last year in district play.

“We just wanted to get the win,” Ferris coach Robin Crain said, crediting a maturing defense for much of this year’s success.

The Saxons’ back four of Logan Parr, Tucker VanTatenhove, Cedar Kelly and Sam Garcia “are obviously another year bigger and stronger,” Crain said, and have given up just one goal in league play so far.

At the other end, returning All-GSL first-teamer Clayton Paull – who scored against Mead in the 74th minute - “makes us very fast and athletic,” Crain added, but noted that the big goals have come from different players: Matt Beaulaurier against Lewis and Clark and Conor Ourada’s penalty kick against Gonzaga Prep.

The Saxon’s trio of 1-0 wins – and a 1-0 loss last week to U-Hi – underscore the close competition this year in the GSL. Seven teams are within a game of each other with only four to play. Elsewhere, Lewis and Clark (3-2) is in the same boat as Central Valley, needing a win at Mead today to stay in the hunt for a top-two finish.

In the 3A ranks, Shadle Park and U-Hi (both 3-2) are trying to keep pace with Mt. Spokane, which is also 3-2 and facing Rogers (0-5).

It all comes down to consistency, said Monrroy, whose club lost 3-2 in overtime to Shadle Park two weeks ago in a match “we felt like we completely dominated.”

The positive, Monrroy said, is that the GSL is a great test for the playoffs.

“We just have to come out this week and show what kind of team we have,” Monrroy said.

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