No team has been more dominant in the Greater Spokane League than Central Valley girls soccer.
The Bears have lost only four times in three years, taking a runner-up finish at state in 2017 and a third-place finish a season ago.
In the middle of that success was a coaching change with Rob Rowe taking over for Andres Monrroy after the 2017 season.
This season, CV finds itself in familiar territory – even without some of the players who carried the torch in years past.
Four back-to-back first-team All-GSL players graduated last year, leaving the Bears with five returning starters and a squad lacking a premier striker.
But it wasn’t surprising to Rowe, who knew the current crop of Bears was building on what the previous generation of players began.
“You know, I think it’s just a group of girls that wanted to not only continue the Central Valley tradition but make their own mark a little bit,” Rowe said. “I know for a fact when we started the season there were a lot of rumblings and the girls heard that CV was going to be down this year. … And we just really used that as a motivator for the girls.”
CV wasn’t decimated with departures, but with more than half the starters gone, it caused the rest of the league to question how successful the Bears would be in defending their crown. Rowe knew there was a foundation in place that just needed the right strings to be pulled and the right players to help pull them.
“I think we just have a real solid group that was coming back,” Rowe said. “Dori Ames (first-team All-GSL and all-state) and Maci Young our center backs, Sailor Watson and then Lily Parker stepped up (as the fullbacks),” Rowe said. “So our defense was pretty much intact. And we knew that we’d be pretty strong there. So we challenged the girls that we needed to get better offensively.”
That’s because CV lost almost its entire midfield and attacking starters from a season ago.
So in stepped Zoe Crocket.
“I’d say a really big surprise was sophomore Zoe Crocket and she’s, I believe at last look, she was leading the league in goals scored,” Rowe said. “We thought we were maybe another year away from her being as strong as she has been this year. And that’s really been a catalyst for us in terms of having the ability to score and not having to rely on 1-0 scores.”
Senior left back Watson has been impressed with Crocket’s ability not just to score but also hold up play to allow more CV attackers to press forward.
“She’s very strong, very fast, and she does not give up on that ball,” Watson said. “And so we all know that if we get the ball to Zoe, she’s either going to go score for us or hold on to it until we can get more offensive players up for us.”
After falling on Wednesday to Mt. Spokane, 3-2 in a shootout on CV’s senior night, the Bears (6-1-0-1, 19 points) will enter the District 8 playoffs with the second seed from the GSL behind Gonzaga Prep.
G-Prep is undefeated in league play (7-0-1-0, 23 points) after its 2-1 win over University on Wednesday.
But before the playoffs, the pair will match up on Saturday at G-Prep in what will serve as an exciting tuneup for the postseason.
“Well, right now they have the Le sisters, of course,” Rowe said of G-Prep. “But also, it’s experience. They have a group of girls that have just played a lot of soccer together. It is really a lot like we were last year.”
G-Prep was regarded as the favorite to win the GSL before the season, but CV has stayed on pace with the Bullpups, making Saturday’s game the juiciest matchup of the GSL season – as it usually is.
“There’s always been a big rivalry between Prep and CV because it seems like every year it comes down to one of us making it to state, and so with Prep not losing many seniors it will be a very hard-fought battle,” Watson said.
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