The North Central boys soccer team appreciates the hard work that’s put them atop the Greater Spokane League standings.
The Indians, who are off to a 3-0 start in the GSL, are realistic enough to know how difficult it will be to stay there.
“I’ve been in the league long enough to know that for sure we have some difficult matches ahead of us,” said coach Matt Leonard, now in his fifth year at NC.
The next one is Wednesday night at Albi Stadium against Gonzaga Prep, which shares the early GSL lead. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.mi. The winner will be alone in first place, looking down at traditional powers Lewis and Clark, Ferris and Central Valley.
Then again, the 3A Indians already own league wins over 4A schools Mead and University.
Both came in gut-check fashion. In the league opener against Mead at Albi Stadium on March 21, the Indians fell behind 1-0 just before halftime.
Senior forward Jake Healy equalized early in the second half, then goalkeeper Josh Ruff made two of his 11 saves in the shootout to win 2-1.
Two days later against University, Ruff had 10 more saves. At the other end, Francis Neff scored the only goal of the match, in the 41st minute off an assist from senior midfielder Aidan Chaparro.
NC stayed perfect in the GSL after Chaparro scored twice in a 2-0 win over Shadle Park on March 28.
“He’s been a role model of how to do it,” Leonard said of Chaparro, who will play next year at Seattle Pacific. “He’s put the work in and a lot people have seen how he dedicates himself to the game.”
A first-team all-GSL pick last year, Chaparro is a role model off the field as well, with a 4.0 grade-point average.
“We’ve just been building as a team since freshman year,” said Chaparro, whose Indians were a combined 10-36 the previous three seasons.
Five seniors have been with the program since they were freshmen.
“But now being at the top, we have that mentality that people are coming to get the lead from us,” Chaparro said.
It won’t be easy. The Indians have fashioned a 5-2 overall record with opportunistic play up front, backed by Ruff and some solid defense.
“We’ve found goals, and really each game has been a little different,” Leonard said. “What’s really satisfying is how we are limiting (opponents’) opportunities.”
Other key players are senior midfielder Derric Deatherage and freshman Braden McLaughlin, who’s played alongside senior brother Erik McLaughlin to anchor the back line.
Marcus Abdel Malek came back from injury to help the Indians beat Shadle Park.
Healy, a three-sport athlete who also plays football and basketball, “has been passionate about whatever team he’s on,” Leonard said.
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