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Heading Upward Mead High Connection Hopes To Carry Zags To The Top

From the Spokane Youth Sports Association and the Greater Spokane League to the West Coast Conference, this is the season two Spokane soccer players hope will produce the best memories.

Chris LaRochelle and Brett Houck, connected at age seven on the soccer field, are entering their final year on the Gonzaga University soccer team. By all indications, this season could be heading straight to the scrapbook, beginning with Monday’s 1 p.m. opener against Whitman College at Gonzaga.

“I think we’ll be disappointed if we don’t win league. I think everyone on the team feels that way,” said Houck, who, along with LaRochelle, graduated from Mead High School in 1994.

“We were within one game last year. If we get that far this year, we’re not going to make that mistake again.”

The Bulldogs needed to win their last three WCC matches last fall to win their first conference title. But a 4-2 loss to San Diego resulted in a 4-2, third-place conference finish (11-6-1 overall).

The season still was regarded as a huge success. The Bulldogs produced more wins than losses for the time since joining the WCC in 1993.

Coach Einar Thorarinsson was named WCC coach of the year and forward Jeff McAllister became the first Gonzaga player to be named to the WCC first-team. He led the conference in scoring (14) and total points (31).

However, Thorarinsson’s prediction for ‘97 is as gentle as his demeanor.

“I’m cautiously confident,” he said.

“We really haven’t done anything. We’re one year after a big year.”

Apparently, the WCC coaches aren’t convinced the Bulldogs belong, despite the return of McAllister and secondteam keeper Josh Fouts.

The preseason coaches poll had Gonzaga fifth behind Portland, San Diego, defending champion Santa Clara and San Francisco.

Portland, a 2-1 winner over Gonzaga last year, returns its five top scorers.

Thorarinsson isn’t surprised with the predictions, even with all but two key players back.

“We have no soccer history here,” Thorarinsson said, who begins his third season. “We’re hoping to change that.”

But according to Houck and LaRochelle, change started the year Thorarinsson arrived. The two, along with McAllister and defender Jeremy Clark, are the only seniors who remain from the pre-Thorarinsson era.

“We didn’t have a head coach our freshman year,” said Houck, a four-year starter. “We had four coaches. We were very disorganized.”

Added LaRochelle, also a four-year starter as a center midfielder: “It’s not what we were used to. Our club team won almost every game we played. At Mead, we won almost every game we played. We came here and we were losing all the time.”

But that’s all changing. Because Houck, LaRochelle and their teammates are confident wins are in store.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: RANKINGS West Coast Conference preseason coaches poll. (First place votes in parentheses) 1. Portland (2) 41 2. San Diego (2) 40 3. Santa Clara (2) 37 4. San Francisco (1) 33 5. Gonzaga 20 6. Saint Mary’s 14 7. Loyola Marymount 11

This sidebar appeared with the story: RANKINGS West Coast Conference preseason coaches poll. (First place votes in parentheses) 1. Portland (2) 41 2. San Diego (2) 40 3. Santa Clara (2) 37 4. San Francisco (1) 33 5. Gonzaga 20 6. Saint Mary’s 14 7. Loyola Marymount 11

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