Kelsey Crosby is cold. No quibbling. Cold.
When you’ve been running around a soccer pitch in freezing temperatures, your body temperature is going to suffer. Exposed skin is going to feel painfully raw, and a wet, leather soccer ball, when frozen, may as well be made of concrete.
“I’ve warmed up a little bit,” she said Tuesday, some 20 hours after her University Titans dropped a 4-0 decision to Central Valley in the regional championship game – a contest played in near-freezing temperatures Monday at Spokane Falls Community College.
The artificial turf had been swept clear of snow, for the most part.
“There were some ice patches out there,” she said. “That didn’t help.”
And it was a full day before Crosby, an All-GSL midfielder, and U-Hi would face off with West Valley-Yakima in a first-round match in the State Class 4A tournament on the same field.
“But it’s going to be a later game, so it’s going to be colder,” she said of the prospect. “You try to dress in layers as best you can.
“I think a lot of it is just mental. You know it’s going to be cold so you just try to put it out of your mind and play the game.”
The added layers can present its own problem.
In the first half of Monday’s seeding game, U-Hi had a throw-in at midfield and a defender ran up, grabbed the ball and attempted the overhead throw. With gloves on.
The expression on her face was priceless as the ball, intended to float 15 yards up field for an open teammate, flew all of about four feet, half of it straight up.
“Oh, oops,” she said, jumping onto the field in an attempt to play the ball. Which you can’t do.
There was a delayed whistle from the referee on the play. He had to stifle a laugh first.
That’s the nature of high school soccer. You start the season trying hard to remain hydrated in hot, humid temperatures and end it just trying to stay warm.
“Yeah,” she said. “We want to play the game and then go drink hot chocolate to get warm.”
The Titans have relished their run through the playoffs.
Losses to Mead and Gonzaga Prep at the end of the regular season left U-Hi in fifth place, which earned it the final spot in the regional tournament.
Crosby’s goal in overtime in a loser-out battle with the Bullpups put U-Hi into the double elimination phase of the tournament.
Against Mid-Columbia champion Chiawana, Crosby scored in the 71st minute off a feed from Sophia Orndorff for the upset win.
Against Mead, the Titans scored on a penalty kick by Crosby’s sophomore sister, Gracen, for the win.
The way the region is set up this year, the result of Monday’s playoff did nothing more than settle which team would play Sumner and which would face the Rams. Everything else was window dressing.
Both Central Valley and University already owned No. 1 seeds for first-round state tournament matches.
“When the Greater Spokane League and the Mid-Columbia came together for the regional, we had a No. 1 seed and they had a No. 1 seed, so there were two,” U-Hi athletic director Ken VanSickle explained.
There is irony in the setup, he pointed out.
If both teams won first-round games, they would play each other for a third time this season. But this time, University would be the home team.
“I would love to play them one more time,” Crosby said. “I believe in my heart that it would be a different game. Not that we saw anything about CV that we could take advantage of. I just think we have a better game against them inside of us.”
Crosby said she is not surprised by the way her team has rallied to get on a win streak when the games count most.
“We have a lot of seniors this year and they took the lead and help bring us together,” she said. “But it’s more than that. We have an especially tight-knit team. We’re very close and we all just pulled together.”
And, she said, they all take a tremendous amount of pride in representing their school.
“That’s the difference between playing club soccer and playing for your school,” she explained. “You’re playing for something that means a lot to you. You’re representing your family, your friends, your school.”