Greater Spokane League
Even after losing two of the top players in the Greater Spokane League, the Central Valley Bears are still in the title conversation this season. Coach Andres Monrroy would expect nothing less: CV has won five league titles in the past decade, last year’s with a clean sweep. Last season, the Bears lost two of their first three, then won 15 in a row and outscored GSL opponents 31-7. The season ended with a shootout loss to Pasco in the State 4A semifinals, but the Bears always seem to rebuild. The curve would appear to be steeper this year – GSL Defensive Most Valuable Player Noah Whitman graduated and Offensive MVP R.J. Stretch is in Seattle, working in the Sounders program. The Bears (16-4 overall, 9-0 GSL in 2017) are young this year, with just four seniors. Attacking midfielder Devin Hauenstein, a second-team all-GSL pick, is back, as is high-scoring forward Connor Wold.
At Ferris, coach Robin Crain always turns out a contender, and this year should be no exception. “We should be a strong possession team with a very good midfield and defense, and our senior leadership is outstanding,” said Crain, who’s taken the Saxons to six Final Fours and was the GSL Coach of the Year in 2017. But for an overtime loss to CV, the Saxons would have won the GSL title last year. They finished 8-1 in the GSL and fell to Richland in regionals. Evan Giem and Alex Holmes return for their senior year, as does Ty Spink on defense. All three were all-GSL honorable mention last year. The top returnee is sophomore Jadon Bowton, who was a GSL second-team pick as a freshman.
After reaching regionals last year and falling by one goal to eventual 4A runner-up Pasco, University is looking for more. Third-year coach Mitch Weller (9-5, 6-3 last year) returns six starters, led by all-GSL second-team defender Cole Dobson. Other key returnees are defenders Zach Mattson, Tyler Adams and Blake Dickinson; midfielder Altyn Cader and forwards Fraser Robertson and Tate O’Kert. Weller sees the Titans’ strengths as “leadership and experience in the back and a solid core returning from last year.”
At Gonzaga Prep, second-year coach Vernon Croft returns seven starters, including four all-GSL performers from a team that went 7-8-1, 5-4. “We’ll need to rely on our senior leadership but will have to replace 70 percent of our scoring from a year ago,” said Croft, a former college coach at Akron. Fortunately, the Bullpups return first-team all-GSL goalkeeper Isaiah Damschen, plus second-team defender Hunter McKenna, seniors Luke Barbieri and Ethan Watkins in midfield and Luke Denke up front.
At Mead, second-year coach Steve Acosta returns just two starters and four lettermen from a team with finished 4-8, 4-5. “We’re a young, highly talented team, strong defensively and weak in attack,” Acosta said. At least the Panthers have experience at all three levels, with senior Adam Nevdahl in midfield and sophomores Caiden Fickenshere at forward and Eli Eldridge in the back. Sophomore Noah Taigen and freshman Parker McKeen will compete for the starting spot in goal.
No GSL team returns more experience than Shadle Park, which has all its starters back for seventh-year coach Donavon Hodgson. “We’re fast and ready to prove something this year,” said Hodgson, whose Highlanders went 2-15, 1-8. Key returners include defenders Dylan Tutt, Braedon Harlow and Cameron Hernandez; midfielder Kole Hudson and Devin McGowan.
Opportunity is knocking for North Central, which returns all 11 starters from a team that was the best in the GSL’s 3A ranks last year. “We have some great talent and motivated boys who want to challenge and compete to try and win any game we’re in,” said fifth-year coach Matt Leonard, who went 4-12, 2-7. Key returnees include first-team all-GSL midfielder Aidan Chaparro, goalkeeper Josh Ruff, defender Justin Barnes and midfielders Derric Detherage and Marcus Abdel-Malek.
Mt. Spokane went 1-13 last year, but new coach Morgan Hartonov inherits six starters and 15 letter winners. “We are a somewhat young team, but I think that a lot of the players will step up,” Hartonov said. Returning starters include goalkeeper Camden Clegg, defenders Brad Campbell and Lucas Smith; and midfielders Mikyas Noble, Peter Stewart and Garren Koller. “A strength this year will be our team unity and team fitness, as we have a lot of guys that worked hard in the offseason,” Hartonov said.
Rogers (5-9, 2-7 last year) returns seven starters but welcomes eight newcomers. “Seven of them have never played organized soccer before,” coach Valentin Dimitrov said.
Great Northern League
Expect another big season at East Valley, which welcomes back seven starters and 10 letter winners from a team that won the GNL by two games and narrowly missed out on a trip to state. “We are returning our whole defensive line,” first-year coach Todd Slatter said. The Knights (14-3, 11-1 last year) return two all-league first-teamers in defender Joey Gresch and midfielder Zach Bowsky.
With five returning starters and a dozen letter winners, Cheney has a shot at returning to state. First-team all-GNL midfielder Samuel Fix is back from last year’s 12-9 team. So are league honorees Gabe Hemenway and Dillyn Reeder, and midfielder Noah Schorzman. “We have a very dynamic team this year full of players who can play in multiple positions,” first-year coach René Caro said.
At West Valley, fourth-year coach Lenny Peterson hopes to improve on last-year’s 3-13 record. Key returnees are forward Chase Howat, midfielders Donovan Howat and Jayden Payne, and defender Tanner Jones.
– Compiled by Jim Allen
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