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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

University girls soccer defy predictions, advance to playoffs with new coach, young team

Kelsey Crosby didn’t want to say the word.

Granted, it was a harsh word in a preview of the Greater Spokane League girls soccer season published in this newspaper in early September. It said Crosby’s University Titans had been “gouged by graduation.”

“I think they underestimated us,” said the senior two-time All-GSL first-team selection. “They said we’d been … gouged. Well, we had a lot more talent here than they gave us credit for.”

That’s obviously true, considering the Titans finished the league season with a 6-3 record, 9-4 overall, and return to the regional playoffs as the league’s No. 4 seed. They will play either Richland or Chiawana on Saturday in the Tri-Cities.

But on the surface, there were some obstacles for the Titans to overcome. Eight starters and 11 players from last year’s squad graduated. And the team faced a new season with a new coach.

Well, more like a familiar face in a new role.

Kara (Jordan) Sharpe starred at University back when Brandon Deyarmin was the Titans’ head coach. She later walked on at Washington State University and earned a scholarship with the Cougars.

“I have concentrated on my family and raising my two boys,” Sharpe said. “I teach at University, and it’s home to me. And I have coached at the club level. When the coach here (Megan Perkins) stepped down, ironically to raise her two kids, I looked at it. I have a husband who has a great job and is able to be incredibly supportive, and both of my parents are retired and willing to help out. It was pretty much a no-brainer.”

Crosby and her sister, junior defender Gracen, are familiar with Sharpe and her style of soccer.

“She coached my older sister, Morgan,” she said. “So I know her style really well, and I think it fits with this group. She has a little more of a hard edge to the way she coaches, but I like it. And the timing really worked to have a new coach come in when the team was changing over personnel.”

The Titans reached the playoffs a year ago for the first time as a Class 4A school and lost in the quarterfinals to cross-district rival Central Valley, 1-0.

But here’s the thing Crosby said got overlooked at the beginning of the season: The program is too strong to be derailed by turnover.

“The personality of this team was strong before we ever started to play,” she said. “We were all friends before the start of the season.

“As far as team chemistry, that took one or two games to get a feel for, but not very long.”

Crosby leads the team with a dozen goals and three assists, and her coach calls her “a definite game changer.”

“Kelsey has put in the time to make herself better since she was a young kid,” Sharpe said. “She put in the time and the hard work to make herself into the kind of player she wanted to be. The thing that makes her special is her drive to compete. She doesn’t want to lose; she wants to be the best. She will do anything she can do to win.”

Crosby took her official visit to Seattle University on Saturday, and she already committed to play for the Redhawks next year.

“I’m excited to play there,” Crosby said. “I like the coaches there, and there’s already a player on the roster there that I played club soccer with.”

College experience is something Sharpe uses in her approach to coaching.

“My soccer journey embodies who I am,” Sharpe said. “More than anything I understand what it’s like to be the best player on a team, and I know what it’s like to fight every day for your spot. That taught me that it’s not always about being the best player. It’s also about positively impacting other players and lifting other players up. I earned a scholarship there, and it’s not lost on me what I had to do to make that happen.”

Anyone who watched Sharpe as a player – especially anyone who knows her family – knew that teaching and coaching was in her future.

Her mother, Candace Jones Jordan, taught in the West Valley School District for 32 years, and her sister, Sasha Deyarmin, is the principal at Ponderosa Elementary. Her father, Jeff Jordan, was the long-time sports editor at The Spokesman-Review.

“With my parents, it was a big surprise that went into teaching and athletics,” she said, laughing. “To me, it was a calling.

“My dad always had the philosophy that, whatever it is that you do, whether it was a minimum wage job or playing soccer, you give it 110 percent effort. You give it your all.”

She’s tapped into her family to help out with more than just her own two future midfielders.

“If you come to our games, Brandon Deyarmin is our public address announcer,” Sharpe said. “In part because he’s my former coach, and he works for the Central Valley School District, but also because he’s my brother-in-law and I asked.”

The GSL has changed since Sharpe played for U-Hi, she insists. And so, too, has her approach to the game.

Having kids refined her perspective.

“Being a mom has made me realize that it’s not always about soccer,” she said. “These are someone’s daughters, and I want to do what’s best by them. There is pressure to be competitive, sure. But I also want to teach them to be good people.”

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