Before the season began, Gonzaga Prep girls soccer coach Billy Barmes had some dreams … big ones, considering the Bullpups hadn’t gotten out of district since 2011.
“Yes, I did,” said Barmes. “I thought that with the amount of talent we would have, I thought the sky was the limit,” said Barmes, whose Bullpups will try to touch the sky this weekend.
In some ways they already have: A year after finishing sixth in the Greater Spokane League, G-Prep is in its first Final Four since 2004.
On Friday night at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, the Bullpups will face West Valley of Yakima in the state 4A semifinals. Win, and the Pups will play Camas or Issaquah on Saturday for the state title.
“We knew were going to be good, but I didn’t think we’d get this far,” said goalkeeper Zoe Boleneus, who along with her back line has kept the Bullpups (17-3) in every match with lockdown defense.
Prep is on a 16-match win streak largely because of a back line that has coalesced after a 1-3 start. Since then, the Bullpups have given up just eight goals while scoring 48.
“It took some time to get us rolling, but the bond between the players was always there,” said center back Mia Padon.
The Bullpup defense is getting better when it matters most: In six postseason matches, only one ball has past Boleneus – good thing, as three of them came down to a penalty kick shootout.
“It’s a lot easier with these girls in front of me,” Boleneus said.
They include Padon, Ollie Branson, Aeva Schrambach and Melissa Symmes, the only senior in the group and one of the top players in the region.
“She’s the quintessential soccer athlete,” said Barmes, who marvels at Symmes’ ability to join the attack on the wing and still recover to cover the center backs.
“That’s why she’s going to Boise State,” said Barmes, who credits defensive midfielder Annie Clark with a big role on defense.
On the other side, Branson, a sophomore who played junior varsity last year, has grown into her role as a starter. “I didn’t know what to expect, but the girls helped me feel part of the team,” Branson said.
In the middle, juniors Padon and Schrambach “weren’t on the same page” early in the season, said Barmes, adding that their development has been a key part of the Bullpups’ success.
Said Schrambach: “It’s been crazy, to think that this could be our year.”
“We have a lot of individual talent, but there’s no one star, and Billy has pushed us to our potential because he knows what we’re capable of,” Schrambach said.
Asked whether the Bullpups are capable of knocking off unbeaten West Valley (17-0-1), Barmes said the Rams are comparable to the upper-tier teams in the GSL.
West Valley is a repeat contender, losing last year in the quarterfinals to eventual champ Central Valley.
St. George’s in 2B/1B semifinals
After winning the title in 2013 and finishing second last year, St. George’s is aiming to get back atop the 2B/1B podium.
The Dragons (14-3) are on a roll, outscoring Dayton, Northwest Christian and Prescott by a combined 21-1 to reach Friday’s semfinal game against Mt. Vernon Christian.
Kickoff at 6 a.m. at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner, Washington. The winner will face Crosspoint Academy or Tacoma Baptist in Saturday’s title match.
Michael Hamilton has four goals in the last two matches to lead the Dragons.
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