In more ways than one, the Central Valley girls soccer players were in their comfort zone Tuesday afternoon.
The Bears got the chance to flee the cold, practicing at the Spokane Shock’s indoor training facility as they prepared to defend their State 4A title.
“It’s nice and warm,” said junior defender Erica Casey, adding that the top-ranked Bears are even more comfortable in the knowledge that they’ve been there, done that.
“I think it’s easier in the sense that we know what’s going to happen,” Casey said as CV prepared for a Friday night semifinal in Puyallup against Gig Harbor. If the Bears win, they’ll face Skyline of Sammamish or Jackson of Everett in the title game Saturday afternoon at Sparks Stadium.
Defending the title they won last year has been as much about defense as the record-breaking scoring of Kelsey Turnbow and the other CV forwards. In their last four playoff games, the Bears (18-2) have scored 13 goals and given up one, that coming in a 6-1 rout of Snohomish in a first-round state matchup.
“Our back four has just been amazing,” coach Andres Monrroy said of starters Casey, senior McKenna Stocker, Marissa Terry and Cassie Fielding.
The group is also deep. After senior Taryn Miller was injured, Casey moved from the left and joined Stocker in the middle.
“We miss her (Miller), but we’ve talked about being ready to go, stepping up,” Monrroy said.
The Bears had no choice after a 2-0 loss to Mead in the District 8 title match Nov. 1, a defeat that made every subsequent match a must-win affair.
“We were devastated,” Stocker said. “But practice the next week was the best we’d had all season.
“I think we finally all just started clicking, talking on the field and playing with an intensity that’s unstoppable.”
The Bears have given up just 24 shots in their last four matches. In last week’s 1-0 quarterfinal at West Valley (Yakima), goalkeeper Chloe Scholtz faced just five shots on goal.
“They’re the best – they make my job easier,” Scholtz said.
The Bears will face a Gig Harbor team that likes to play the long ball, according to Monrroy.
“A lot of schools have done that against us, and it hasn’t been successful,” Monrroy said.
Gig Harbor (13-4-2) finished third in the Narrows League, which also sent Olympia and South Kitsap to the quarterfinals. Only the Tides are still alive, thanks to a 1-0 win over traditional soccer power Issaquah.
Gig Harbor defender Emery Wallerich, an Oregon State commit, will have to deal with state scoring leader Turnbow, who has 26 goals this year.
Gig Harbor will make its second trip to the final four. The last came in 2011, when the Tides were knocked out in the semifinals by Bellarmine Prep.
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