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University girls soccer team comes together at perfect time

University girls soccer coach Megan Perkins, center left, watches over drills while standout midfielder Kelcey Crosby, center right, dribbles during a practice Wednesday at University High School. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
University girls soccer coach Megan Perkins, center left, watches over drills while standout midfielder Kelcey Crosby, center right, dribbles during a practice Wednesday at University High School. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Need an object lesson in how to bounce back from life’s little setbacks?

Check out the University girls soccer team, which 10 days ago was reeling from two straight losses and staring at elimination.

Three wins later, the Titans have clinched their first state tournament as a 4A school.

On Friday they’ll play at Central Valley for the District 8 4A championship. Win or lose, U-Hi will host a first-round state playoff game early next week.

Coach Megan Perkins isn’t surprised at the turnaround, given that this year’s team is led by her “Blue Collar Kids,” the girls who’ve been with the program since they were freshmen.

“That’s the goal they’ve had all year,” said Perkins, now in her eighth year in charge of the program. “Now they’ve come together at the right time – I knew they were going to bounce back.”

Two weeks ago, the Titans were 5-2 in the Greater Spokane League and seemingly headed for a top-three finish. Then disaster struck, as they lost to Mead (3-1) and Gonzaga Prep (4-2) in the final week of the regular season.

That left U-Hi clinging to the fifth and final playoff spot. Three days after the loss to G-Prep, the Titans had to face the fourth-place Bullpups in a loser-out match.

Twice they fell behind and twice they rallied to force overtime. Two minutes into the extra period, junior midfielder Kelsey Crosby scored to give the Titans a 3-2 win and a berth in the double-elimination district.

Showing their versatility, the Titans (9-6) went on the road against Mid-Columbia Conference champion Chiawana. This time defense prevailed, and so did U-Hi on a 71st-minute goal from Crosby off an assist from Sophia Orndorff.

“They just keep fighting and fighting and they just don’t give in,” Perkins said.

The Titans’ resolve was tested again on Saturday. With a state berth on the line, they fell behind Mead on two occasions before sophomore Gracen Crosby converted a penalty kick with 2 minutes left in regulation.

“Out of any team I’ve coached, these girls have had the best attitude,” Perkins said.

They also have one of the GSL’s top players in Kelsey Crosby, a first-team all-league pick last year as a sophomore. A sure-fire college prospect, she has a team-high 10 goals along with six assists.

“She works hard and makes everyone around her better,” Perkins said.

The other players have risen to the occasion during an up-and-down season.

Senior goalkeeper Madi Szafransky has made 66 saves and has enjoyed an “amazing season,” according to Perkins, who also got solid performances from defenders Kendall Bastine (who also has three goals this year), Amanda Gerard and Jordan Bustamante.

In the midfield, seniors Orndorff and Abigail Joppa have complemented the Crosby sisters.

Up front, the Titans are getting balanced scoring from seniors Brooke Berg (six goals), Micah Simpson (three goals, two assists) and Kora George (two goals, three assists).

Sophomore forward Lauren Chester has been the top playmaker, with a team-high seven assists in addition to two goals.


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