GREATER SPOKANE LEAGUE
If Gonzaga Prep can’t re-create the chemistry that carried it to last year’s GSL soccer title, several teams have the ingredients to win.
Mead, Central Valley, University and Ferris all return key players on teams that finished in the upper division of the standings.
With seven returning starters and a pair of all-league performers in the back line, Mead is in great position to contend. “I’m returning a strong group with a core group that has a lot of experience,” said fifth-year coach Kevin Houston, who will count on junior defenders Emma Morse and Katie Kuka to stifle opposing offenses. Houston also welcomes back Clare Neder, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury); and Bailey Thompson (whose shoulder injury cost her part of the season). “Our weakness is looking to stay healthy throughout the season,” said Houston, whose senior returnees include Katie Greene, Cheris Brown, Katie Brown, Katie Anderson, Gabby Nicodemus and Kaylyn Thompson.
After a decade away from coaching girls soccer, Robin Crain came back with a flourish last year by taking Ferris all the way to the state quarterfinals. Led by first-team all-GSL midfielder Alexis Murphy, the Saxons have a chance to contend again. “If our organization on defense comes together and we stay healthy, we could do well,” said Crain, who also likes his team’s speed and attacking ability. Ferris also returns second-team all-GSL midfielder Myah Long. Other seniors include Sydney Clements, KayDee Fisher, Izzy Contos, Sandra Garcia-Birginal and Chrissy Fitzgerald. Junior midfielder Lexi Caniglia already has two goals for the 3-0 Saxons.
At Central Valley, coach Andres Monrroy goes into his 11th season with seven returning starters and 14 letter winners. The Bears will be counting up front on senior Natalie Cabiad and newcomer Maggie Ames; the pair already has combined for seven goals. The Bears, who tied for third in the GSL last year, are 2-1 going into league play thanks a pair of high-scoring wins over Sandpoint and Lake City. The Bears also will count on sophomore midfielders Makenzie and Makayla Claypool. Sophomore A.J. Crooks is in goal.
University was the surprise of the GSL last season, as an inexperienced team made it to regionals. That was enough to get co-coach of the year honors for Megan Perkins, who returns eight starters and 18 lettermen. “We have a large returning group, and we’re cohesive,” said Perkins, now in her eighth year. The Titans also return two young standouts: Forward Julia Adair and midfielder Kelsey Crosby were all-GSL picks last year. Other senior returnees are Alli Smeltzer, Kylan Krause and Clara Scott.
No matter how many players he loses to graduation, Mt. Spokane coach Ryan Campanella manages to come back strong almost every year. However, the Wildcats return just four starters from a squad that went 10-5 last year and reached the quarterfinals of the state 3A playoffs. “We’re very young,” said Campanella, who has just four seniors on the roster. “But we have solid senior leadership, but also a lot of young talent.” That includes Amber Hickman and Hope Zimmerer, who started last year as freshmen in midfield. Another midfielder, junior Payton Stiles, was an honorable mention pick last year, as was sophomore Abbi Kalin up front.
Mica Lamb, who took the Lewis and Clark boys to state last year, takes over the Tiger girls program that went 1-7 in GSL play last year. The Tigers return 12 letter winners, including all-GSL honorable mention selection Rebekah Reason at forward. “I like the way we move the ball and maintain possession,” said Lamb, who adds that “we need to shore up some deficiencies defensively.” Junior Paige Malm and sophomore Camryn Gardner are expected to spur the Tigers up front. So far, so good: LC is 3-1 with 10 goals scored.
Shadle Park returns eight starters and 13 letter winners. “We’ll be more competitive and will have a better record than last year,” predicts coach Donavon Hodgson, who went 2-7 in the GSL and 4-12 last fall. The Highlanders are young, with co-captains Keilah Shaw and Katie Hoffman the only seniors.
There’s optimism at North Central, which went 3-6 in the GSL last year and reached the 3A regionals. “We learned a lot last year as a group and the girls are poised for improvement,” said third-year coach Matt Leonard, who returns seven starters and 16 letter winners. Returning seniors include Cassidy Crosswhite, Tori Kestell and Jenna Russell.
GREAT NORTHERN LEAGUE
Preseason favorite Cheney is already off to a blazing start, going 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the GNL going into Thursday’s big match at East Valley. “This should definitely be the team to turn our program around,” said fifth-year coach Nels Radtke. “I see us finishing in the top half of the league and winning a couple of playoff games.”
Indeed, Cheney opened the year with wins over Mt. Spokane and The Blackhawks (2-15 last year) are young, with just three seniors in defenders Carissa Teeters and Justess Neihart, and goalkeeper Nicole Rowley. Up front, freshmen Kaitlin Teeter and Kailey Estrellado are leading the charge, with sophomore Gabby Nguyen setting them up.
East Valley looks to be Cheney’s top challenge. The Knights are 3-2, with losses to Ferris and Mead of the GSL. EV is coming off one of the best seasons in school history (16-3 with a state quarterfinal appearance), but ninth-year coach Gabe Escobar returns just four starters. Shannon Frucci has three goals in league wins over Pullman and Clarkston.
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