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Wildcats take on surprising Highlanders

Mt. Spokane has been here before, and that could make a big difference in today’s 3A soccer match against surprising Shadle Park.

The Highlanders are 2-1 in Greater Spokane League play, won convincingly against Central Valley and almost knocked off preseason favorite Mead. But Mt. Spokane is at home, and more importantly, at home in big matches.

The Wildcats reached the quarterfinals of last year’s State 3A playoffs. This year’s team is comprised mostly of juniors “with a lot of experience,” coach Ryan Campanella said.

“You can see it carry over into this season,” Campanella said. “They seem to have bought into the game plan.”

Mt. Spokane is 2-1 in the GSL and is coming over a 4-0 win on March 27 over University, which until now has been the Wildcats’ biggest 3A rival. A win over Shadle Park would all but guarantee a spot in the 3A district tournament, and probably the top spot.

“We’ve had a few breakdowns,” Campanella said, “but so far the kids have held their own. We just have to stay focused.”

Campanella is getting another big season out of goalkeeper Robert Powles and goals at the other end from forward Jack Gularte, who had two in a 3-1 win over North Central and two more against U-Hi.

Midfielder Brady Moore scored in the 76th minute to give the Wildcats a 2-1 win at G-Prep in the first week of the season.

Meanwhile Shadle Park has played some of the most exciting soccer of the season so far. The Highlanders took Mead to penalty kicks, losing on the sixth attempt, then posted their biggest win in recent years with a 3-2 triumph at Central Valley on March 27.

In that one, Shadle went ahead 2-1 with seven minutes left in regulation, then watched CV equalize a minute later before winning in overtime on a penalty kick by junior midfielder Peter Sokolis.

“That was a real confidence-builder,” second-year coach Donavon Hodgson.

A bigger one would be a win at Mt. Spokane, which beat the Highlanders 2-0 last season en route to the 3A district title. “It would be huge,” Hodgson said.

Corner kicks

Defending champ Mead still sits atop both the GSL and the 4A ranks largely by “working hard and keeping the intensity and level of play strong,” Panthers coach Kevin Houston said. Mead (3-0 in the GSL) is a game ahead of the pack entering this week’s matches, including a big test Friday at Ferris (2-1). Moreover, the Panthers got in an extra match last weekend against Douglas High School of Juneau, Alaska. The matched ended 1-1, but the Panthers are coming off spring break with a recent contest under their belts. “We got a break, but that also allows us to continue playing,” Houston said. … The Great Northern League is muddled in the middle thanks to a surprising Colville team that was 4-2 in league entering Tuesday’s game at first-place Cheney (7-0). The Indians’ Filipp Susin leads the league with 11 goals.