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East Valley Knights expected to thrive in soccer playoffs

Having dropped out of the Greater Spokane League and down a classification to the 2A level, Gabe Escobar and his East Valley High School girls soccer team made some major adjustments to their expectations heading into the 2010 season.

Most – including a regular-season title in their new place, the Great Northern League – were met. And now the Knights (15-6) are right where they expected to be, which is in the semifinals of the State 2A playoffs that will play out Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.

EV, making its first state semifinal appearance in school history, will face White River at 6 p.m. Defending state champion Archbishop Murphy will take on Sehome at 8 in the other semifinal.

Friday’s winners will play at 4 p.m. Saturday to determine the State 2A champion. The losers meet at noon to determine the third- and fourth-place finishers.

Escobar doesn’t know much about White River, another school that dropped from 3A to 2A this year. But he expects his team, despite its youth, to be up for whatever challenge presents itself. Much of that confidence comes from knowing how competitive the Knights were in the GSL and at the 3A level the past few years.

“Last year we had a lot of freshmen,” said Escobar, who is in his fourth year as EV head coach, “and I believe that playing in the GSL at the varsity level set the standard for them as far as where their level of play needs to be. Those freshmen are all sophomores now, and that experience of playing Lewis and Clark, Mead, G-Prep and U-Hi last year has really helped this season.”

Despite having 11 sophomores and three freshmen on the roster this fall, EV finished 10-2 in the GNL, with one of its losses coming in double overtime and the other in a shootout.

“When we were in the GSL, our goal wasn’t necessarily to win the league but to be the No. 1 3A school,” Escobar said. “I always thought we competed very well in the GSL, but coming into the GNL this year and knowing who we had coming back and their talent level, I was expecting to come out and make a statement by winning the league.

“I’ve treated this season in a whole different way, as far as expectations are concerned. With the squad we have, I definitely felt we were going to be a team that would have a very good chance of not only winning the GNL, but of also making it to where we are right now.”

The Knights have been led this fall by a pair of juniors – Amanda Bliesner and McKaylin Hughes – who both played major roles as freshmen two years ago on a senior-dominated team that lost in the first round the State 3A playoff. Bliesner led the GNL in scoring with 15 goals and seven assists

State 1A

Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), which won the Northeast A League regular-season championship with a 7-0-1 record, has advanced to the semifinals of the State 1A playoffs that will also be played at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup on Friday.

The Eagles, who are 15-4-1 overall, will face Bush at 2 p.m. Overlake and Vashon Island will meet at 4 in the other semifinal.

Friday’s winners will advance to Saturday’s state title match, which kicks off at 2 p.m. The losers will battle at 10 a.m. to determine third and fourth places.