As seasons go, this was better than usual.
The Spokane Shadow and Spokane Sounders had four premier youth soccer teams claim State Cup and President’s Cup championships as the 2017-18 Washington Youth Soccer season wrapped up.
In all, 11 area teams claimed league championships. Nine more reached the semifinals of their respective league tournaments or finished in the top two in their respective Regional Club League or Far West Regional League.
“This was probably a little bit better than usual,” Spokane Shadow spokesperson Gerald Barnhart said. “It was a good season, and we’re expecting even better results in the future with our boys program. We’ve added some new coaches, and we’re attracting a lot of better, more talented players on the boys side.”
It speaks volumes that nearly a dozen top finishes in regional leagues is “a little bit better” than usual.
The two youth soccer entities have forged a solid alliance in the area.
The Seattle Sounders have a long soccer history and tradition in the Pacific Northwest that dates back to the North American Soccer League.
“They put together a curriculum for how they want to see the game played and taught,” Spokane Shadow director of coaching Nick Pellicio said. “It’s very data driven. For example they show that shooting from outside the penalty area is a very low percentage shot. But if you drive into the penalty area and cut the ball back, you have a much better chance at success.
“We’ve adopted their whole curriculum. It’s meant changing the way we talk about things, but it’s also given us an opportunity to be consistent throughout all levels in how we teach and how we talk about soccer.”
Washington Youth Soccer’s Regional Club League features the top 18 soccer clubs in the state at levels from U10 to U19. U.S. Youth Soccer’s Far West Regional League is made up of the top teams from state leagues in Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and British Columbia.
During the just-completed season, 16 teams advanced to the knockout phase of their respective tournaments. Seven reached the semifinals before being knocked out and four teams claimed league championships.
The 2001A U17 girls captured the State Cup in exciting fashion. The U16 State Cup winners reversed a season of frustration against PacNW, the team it beat, 3-1 in last year’s title match. PacNW won all three matches during the regular season.
“We have been ravaged by injuries this year and have never had our full roster healthy,” coach Kevin Moon said. “It impacted our results at times but slowly built a resilient mindset.”
That resiliency was needed when the team lost standout goalkeeper AJ Crooks the week of the semifinals, but Eden Elliot stepped in and helped the team post a 2-0 win over Eastside FC to reach the finals.
Against PacNW in the finals, the team fell behind 2-0 early in the match, but Chloe Gellhaus got the Spokane team on the board with a goal before intermission and Olivia DeShazo got the team even with a goal midway through the second half.
Elliot came up with a huge save in the third round of the shootout and PacNW missed in the fourth. Gellhaus converted her penalty kick to wrap up the title.
The boys and girls 2006A Valley sides each captured U12 President’s Cup titles and the 2004A Shadow United girls team won the U14 Cup.
The 2006A Valley girls knocked off the Washington Rush in the U12-D1 semifinals and posted a 3-0 win over the RVS Orange in the title match.
The 2006A Valley boys dominated their final two opponents, scoring twice in the opening 15 minutes of their semifinal and blanking Eastside FC in the title match.
“We had three fantastic goals to lead our way to our best performance of the tournament, head coach Jesse Dunbar said. “It was an amazing way to end the season and to end my run as their coach.”
Shadow United posted a 2-1 win over Three Rivers in the semifinal after allowing a goal in the first minute of play. Sadie Stevenson got Shadow United even in the second half and Ayden Wells got the game winner.
In the finals, Shadow United and Bellevue were scoreless well into the second half. Wells scored her second goal in two games with eight minutes left off a feed from Reece Walker.
“Our defense dug down deep with some great defending and amazing saves from our goalkeeper, Kaylyn Randazzo,” coach Lance Hall said. “We went into the second half still at zeroes but had some great possession and scoring opportune.
“You always look at wins and losses as the barometer of your success, and in that sense, we had more wins and more teams advancing in state cups and finishing higher in their leagues,” Pellicio said. “But we also like to look at the season in terms of style of play, of individual development of players and their improvement. We look at B teams moving up to A teams.
“We’re consistent across all age groups and across both genders. We’re seeing success at all levels. It’s not hit and miss – and age group here or and age group there. It’s every age group.”
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