If there were a team song for the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups, it would be “Under Pressure” by Queen.
In eight seasons under head coach Billy Barmes, the G-Prep girls soccer team has focused on putting opposing teams under pressure, causing them to cough up the ball and putting a wrench into their rhythm.
“Basically, from end line to end line, I’ve just found that in the high school game, that’s a successful style of play,” Barmes said. “We don’t like to give other teams space and time … errors will happen for kids technically when they’re put under pressure.”
One of the first places Barmes looks for pressure is from his attackers. The more time his offense has on the ball, the more chances it creates.
It starts with his striker, senior Erin Ewers, who was first-team All-Greater Spokane League. Her work ethic up top is what sets her apart from other attacking players in the league. Last season, she worked aside league offensive MVP Campbell Seibold, but Seibold graduated, leaving Ewers to hunt for the back of the net more often this fall.
“She is the hardest defender out on the field,” Barmes said of Ewers. “And she plays in the front line. And so she’s going to give back lines fits just in terms of them trying to get the ball out of their out of their defense.”
Ewers is the first of three seniors from the front to the back.
Behind Ewers is attacking midfielder Sammy Symmes, the most technically gifted player on the roster. She collects the ball from the defense to help facilitate the offense.
“She has the ability to be that linchpin in the middle of the field,” Barmes said. “She is where we can always find her and she can find somebody to go forward. She just helps initiate and finish off our attack.”
Helping stabilize the defense is Emma Van Gemert, an outside back. She provides experience and will be a mentor to the young defenders for the next generations of Bullpups.
G-Prep lost five starters and six letter winners in a shortened 10-game season. Barmes said the exodus of experience was the largest the program has undergone in his tenure. The expectation is to compete from the start, but growing pains are expected to surface throughout the beginning of the season.
The Bullpups struggled in the first half against Cheney last week before dominating East Valley 6-0 on Tuesday. There are still four more nonleague games to go – including games against Mt. Spokane and Mead – before the league schedule begins Sept. 20 against Lewis and Clark.
The tough nonleague schedule is meant to help with evaluations and test the depth of the squad early.
“We need to find where we need to grow and find the areas that we need to really continue to utilize our strengths and just taking one game at a time, figuring out the right rotations and all those pieces,” Barmes said.
“The big pieces are just getting the new kids, the first-year varsity players, up to speed on how we like to attack, how we like to defend as a team and then kind of working from there to get them to fit into our system.”
The Bullpups are ready to push for the league crown and have expectations for state. The burden doesn’t fall on the three seniors, but the entire roster.
“We’ve always had a couple of superstars at a time,” Barmes said. “And I think those superstars have shined as bright as they have, because they’ve had such good quality around them.”
That continues this season as the team has pent-up excitement from last season that has translated into this one.
4A/3A (2020 record)
Central Valley (7-2): Rob Rowe starts his fourth season at CV with six letter winners and four starters back, including league co-offensive MVP Zoe Crockett and first-team all-league midfielder Gracie Reidt. “Overall, we have a strong group returning and three freshmen who will contribute significant minutes,” Rowe said.
Cheney (4-7): Nine letter winners and six starters return for ninth-year coach Nels Radtke. “Our backline should be our strength,” he said. Grace Hammermeister is the lone returner in the midfield, and senior goalkeeper Sydney Reagan should lead.
Ferris (2-9): Fifth-year coach Alex Bray loses six starters to graduation, but returns nine letter winners, including all-league goalie Abbie Scoot and junior all-league forward Cadena Peroff. “Our strength this year will be our team chemistry, which has been fantastic from the start, and our forwards, who are eager to score goals,” Bray said.
Gonzaga Prep (8-2): The East Region champs from the spring return 11 letter winners and six starters for eighth-year coach Barmes, including all-league forward Ewers and a four-year starter in midfielder Symmes.
Lewis and Clark (6-3): Coach Mica Lamb, in his sixth season with the girls team, has 11 letter winners and seven starters back from last year’s squad. “LC returns a solid defense and midfield and will look to find a reliable scoring threat in the 2021 campaign,” Lamb said. All-league honorable mention midfielders junior Faith Shaw and sophomore Sofia Alfaro are leaders.
Mead (6-3): The Panthers have a new coach this season as Casey Curtis takes over the program. There’s a lot to work with as 11 letter winners and seven starters return, including all-league goalie Mercedes Cullen and senior defenders Erika Frahm and Shannon Wood. “We will be tough to outwork and our depth will be a benefit throughout the season,” Curtis said.
Mt. Spokane (7-4): The Wildcats have 15 letter winners and nine starters back for third-year coach Shannon Stiles, including three all-league picks, sophomore defender Bre Koscielski, senior midfielder Miya Gibbs and senior defender Kylie Stiles.
North Central (7-4): The Wolfpack have 15 letter winners and eight starters back for eighth-year coach Matt Leonard, including senior all-league goalie Bailey Bowden and junior forward Emily Todd. “‘Embrace the challenge’ is our team’s driving force this fall,” Leonard said. “We have a committed team full of passion and heart.”
Ridgeline (0-0): It’s a young group with no seniors, but coach Tiera Como said the Falcons “have lots of talent,” and will “play with high tempo and rely on our technical ability.” Juniors Ramona Robinson and Kate Hunter will be looked at as leaders. Freshman Natalie Thompson will have impact up front.
University (1-10): Kara Sharpe returns for her fourth season with 16 letter winners and six starters back. “Our back line will be a strength as we return three starters, including McKinley Ullman, a three-year starter,” Sharpe said. Aubree Carpenter, a young, athletic keeper, split the job last year but is the unquestioned starter.
Pullman (6-5): The Greyhounds have 13 letter winners and eight starters back for veteran coach Doug Winchell, starting his 25th season in Pullman. Senior Elise McDougle and junior Alene Itani were all-league selections on defense.
Rogers (0-11): Third-year coach Mike Duke returns five starters and six letter winners from last year to build upon. Senior midfielders Marissa Bell and Olivia Bell will provide senior leadership as team captains.
Shadle Park (8-2): The Highlanders have six starters and 11 letter winners back off a competitive squad. “We are showing great energy from our large class of incoming freshmen and first-year players,” third-year coach Rik Robles said. “I am really looking for our returning players to set the right tone early.”
West Valley (9-2): Third-year coach CC Collins guided the Eagles to an East Region championship in the spring and has six starters back, including two-time, first-team all-league center back Abbie Sicilia. “We have an all-around strong team mentally and physically,” Collins said.
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