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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Shadow strengthened in time for critical games

J.D. Larson Correspondent

Coming off a weekend that provided two losses, the Spokane Shadow got some unexpected good news early this week.

Brett Hite, the 2004 Pacific Development League (PDL) U-19 Player of the Year, and defender Austin Washington will return a week earlier than expected from club-team obligations.

This puts them in Spokane for two weekend games the Shadow have to win. Spokane plays last-place Abbotsford at 7 p.m. Friday at Albi Stadium, and second-place Yakima at 7 p.m. Saturday. Spokane (4-4-0) is in third place with 12 points, 10 behind first-place Cascade (7-0-1). The Northwest Division will only get one berth to the PDL playoffs.

“Essentially, we just got back our leading goal scorer (Hite) and our best one-on-one defender (Washington) all at the same time,” said Shadow head coach Kieran Barton, who gets to return to the sidelines after acting as player-coach last weekend. “Having Brett out there, even on a bad day, he takes a lot of pressure off everyone else and draws the two or three closest defenders.”

With Hite receiving more attention, that opens up space for the rest of the Shadow, who only managed two goals over last weekend after they averaged nearly three in the first six games.

“If everyone has the same responsibilities, they’ll have a little more time,” Barton said. “If Brett’s able to add anything assist-wise or goal-wise, that will be fantastic.”

Spokane is the closest to full strength that it has been all year, with only Grant Lundberg (foot) still out. Hite is able to practice with the team regularly for the first time, as he recently finished classes at the University of Washington.

“He’s the most energetic guy out at practice,” Barton said. “There’s a different competitiveness at practice because he’s one of the key players. He’ll lift the level of practice for three or four days, because it can be a long summer, but for him it’s just really started. He’s bringing the first-day energy back, and rejuvenating some of the other guys.”

Barton said the other Shadow players were ready to play again right after the 5-2 loss to Cascade, knowing they had missed a big opportunity in a game that Spokane led late in the first half.

“We really let a big opportunity get away,” Barton said.

“We really need to win both games this weekend, (because) even ties now hurt us. The good news is we still play Cascade three times, so we’ve got a chance to make up some points on them head-to-head, but we’ve got to take care of everyone else.”