Time to get scrappy.
Greater Spokane League boys soccer is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a gantlet that each contender must run, and survive, in order to reach the playoffs.
“I would be surprised if any team was able to go undefeated,” East Valley coach Jeff Rose said.
Central Valley coach Brandon Deyarmin agrees.
The Bears finished third in last year’s league playoffs and look to improve this year.
“The thing is,” he said, “if the ball bounced the other way in a couple of games, we could have finished first.”
“I think knowing that is part of what has driven our players coming into this season,” Deyarmin said. “But you have to be ready to play every time out.”
League wide, the Bears and Titans figure to battle for Class 4A title with Lewis and Clark, Ferris, Mead and Mt. Spokane. East Valley, a 4A league playoff team a year ago, drops down to compete with West Valley, Cheney, Clarkston and North Central for the 3A playoff berths.
Central Valley Bears
The Bears return 14 players from last year’s squad – something new for Deyarmin.
“It’s been a while since I had a boys or girls team return so many players,” he said. “I think it will be exciting.”
Central Valley graduated two seniors off last year’s squad, but both were center midfielders – something akin to a veteran football team starting over with new quarterbacks.
Deyarmin will fill one of those spots with senior Joey Balcom, a varsity performer as both a freshman and sophomore.
The Bears return their defensive unit intact, led by returning juniors Ryan Skay (goalkeeper) and state wrestling champion Lucas Chesher.
With Chesher and three-sport athletes Tommy Kadoya and Blake Trimmer, the Bears have speed and toughness borne of playing a contact sport.
“You always want to have the players who only play soccer the year around,” Deyarmin said. “But you can always use players who are just plain good athletes.
“We’re going to be able to play the type of soccer that I enjoy coaching: a very fast, possession style of game. We have some speed, but we also have a sense of finesse.”
And the team won’t be afraid of playing a physical game.
East Valley Knights
The Knights made the playoffs a year ago, falling to Central Valley in the first round, in coach Jeff Rose’s first season as head coach.
So far this season, it’s been about continuation.
“We’ve really picked up where we left off,” Rose said. “We are so far ahead of where we were this time last year.”
The key to the Knights is center midfield, where junior Ben Funkhouser and senior Torrey Riley control the game.
An All-GSL second-team selection a year ago, Funkhauser will play this season with the Spokane Shadow’s A team.
“That’s going to give him a lot of great experience,” Rose said. “He’s been training a lot with their youth team but will step up and play with the A team as well.”
Riley brings senior leadership to the team.
“He’s a great kid and a real leader with tremendous ability,” Rose said.
Josh Polello anchors the defense as the team’s sweeper.
“The sweeper is especially important at the high school level,” Rose said. “Josh is a big, strong, fast kid and he has a good head on his shoulders – the kind of kid you want playing that position. He’s played football and wrestled and is very competitive – good qualities for this team.”
Senior Brad Burger, who took last year off from soccer, has been a surprise at forward, joining Cole Abramson, who was second to Funkhouser in goals and assists a year ago.
Having outstanding weather has paid benefits for the Knights.
“Last year we were in the gym the first week last year,” Rose said. “We ended up cutting a player, based on what we saw in the gym, who is on the varsity this year. I’ve apologized to him several times – but it’s hard to get a real feel for what a player has playing in the gym.”
West Valley Eagles
The Eagles are making strides.
A year ago, West Valley coach Matt Nelson didn’t have enough players to fill out a junior varsity – a condition corrected this year.
“The good thing is that we have enough players to do a full scrimmage,” Nelson explained. “We got some young players so we can build.”
The Eagles return a pair of experienced defenders in seniors Landon Page, fresh from the State 3A basketball tournament, and Austin Bauman. Senior Clancy Bundy and junior David Luden flesh out the defensive unit while sophomores Camron Bowman and Alex Gosline compete for the starting job in goal.
“Landon and Austin are both good leaders and will do a good job anchoring the defense,” Nelson said. “Our keepers are both competing real well. In the next week we’ll have to pick one and go with them as the starter, but it’s good to have that kind of competition”
The Eagles have Neil Bachman back at forward, although the junior, slowed by knee surgery, has yet to reach 100 percent.
“He’s coming along,” Nelson said. “He’s been cleared to play and he’s practicing without a brace on the knee for the first time in quite a while. It’s just a matter of getting him back in shape to play a full game.”
The first thing you notice about University is who’s not there.
The Titans graduated GSL MVP Brett Hite – who scored 16 goals for U-Hi and 14 more for the Spokane Shadow a year ago and now plays for the University of Washington.
Keep thinking about what the Titans are missing, University coach Kevin Houston says.
University got a taste of what it would be like to play without Hite last year.
“They had to play without Brett during four games last year when he was injured, so they got an idea about what it was going to take,” Houston said.
The Titans return a young, veteran core.
“We had a fairly young team last year,” Houston said. “We went with a lot of freshmen and sophomores. This year I didn’t have any freshmen who made varsity, but my returning players have all come back strong. That year of experience will be invaluable.”
Houston has numbers again this year – enough to field three teams.
Senior captain Tyler Goss leads a defensive unit that returns intact.
Junior midfielder Keith Realing has missed some early practices while playing with ST United, but the Olympic Development Program regional player is an anchor for the Titans, where he joins senior Mario Robles.
Senior Sean Pierce gives University a solid scoring threat at forward.
“Sean is in his third varsity season, and he’s made tremendous strides,” Houston said. “Last year he finished awesome.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.