The Shadle Park soccer players set a rather ambiguous goal this spring. It had less to do with wins than what goes into them: hard work.
“They wanted to shock the GSL,” coach Donavon Hodgson said. “And I think they’ve done that.”
Picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams in the Greater Spokane League, the Highlanders are 4-3 and just a game out of first place with two matches left in the regular season. One more win – against either Ferris today or Lewis & Clark on Friday – would guarantee them a spot in the 3A District title game next week.
“They said, ‘We put in a lot of hard work, and we’re going to challenge the league this year,’ ”
That starts with his 12 seniors, said Hodgson, including captains Kenji Booey in goal, Cameron Evans and Alex Osler on defense and Chris Pieroni in midfield.
“They’ve definitely led by example, on and off the field, and just working hard,” Hodgson said.
The first defining point of the season, Hodgson said, came against defending GSL champ Mead in the first league match of the season. The Panthers broke a scoreless tie with 5 minutes to play, but Matt Niemeier scored in the final minute to force overtime.
The Highlanders lost in a shootout after a 1-1 tie, “but it was a confidence-builder for us,” Hodgson said.
A week later, Shadle picked up its biggest win of the season at Central Valley. The Highlanders took a 2-1 lead with 6 minutes left, then watched CV tie the match barely a minute later.
How would the players react, on the road, against a program that reached the 4A semifinals a year ago, even as the Bears had the bulk of the possession in the second half?
“We talked about it,” Hodgson said. “In the next five minutes there are a lot of emotions. They’re either going to let down or keep going.”
Ten minutes later, halfway through overtime, Peter Sokolis’ penalty kick completed a hat trick and provided some early-season momentum.
Sokolis has five goals this season despite coming off an ACL injury suffered in football.
Part of the success is Hodgson’s 3-5-2 formation, a credit to junior center back Takoda Dauble. “I wouldn’t use that formation if it weren’t for Takoda,” Hodgson said. “I have complete faith and trust in him back there.”
Mt. Spokane (4-3) has the tiebreaker over Shadle in the 3A race, with U-Hi (3-4) and North Central (1-6) heading for the loser-out match. District begins on Tuesday for 4A and Wednesday for 3A. All matches will be held at Spokane Falls Community College.