Coach Matt Kinder says his Gonzaga Prep boys’ soccer team has been flying under the radar.
Now the Bullpups are simply flying; they’re the hottest team in the Greater Spokane League, winning five straight matches going into tonight’s 4A District playoffs.
“We had a tough preseason schedule and had to work through some tough early losses and other adversity (illness and injury),” said Kinder, now in his fifth season with the Bullpups. “We’ve been able to learn valuable lessons from each game.”
And if the lessons took a while to sink in – Prep was in eighth place in the GSL just three weeks ago – the Bullpups are doing the schooling of late; Prep has outscored its last five opponents 18-3 en route to finishing third in the standings.
He moved some players to new positions, but Kinder gave most of the credit to a “group of high-character kids who work hard and play well together.”
Today’s 4A doubleheader at Spokane Falls Community College begins with a loser-out match between Gonzaga Prep (8-7) and Lewis and Clark (11-5).
The nightcap features GSL regular-season champion Ferris (10-4) and runner-up Central Valley (9-3), with the winner advancing to next week’s Regionals. The Ferris-CV loser gets another chance Friday against the winner of tonight’s loser-out match.
3A: Last year, Mt. Spokane made it all the way to the state quarterfinals. If the Wildcats get that far again, part of the credit will go to a character- building, late-season schedule.
Mt. Spokane has lost four of its last five going into Wednesday’s District title match with Shadle Park, which has dropped three straight in a schedule backloaded with opponents from the 4A ranks.
“It felt like anything could happen on a game day, which made it extremely difficult to predict who would win a certain match-up,” Mt. Spokane coach Ryan Campanella said. “I think the league as a whole is getting more competitive, which serves us well when we go to regional and state playoffs.”
District play opens with a doubleheader at 5 p.m. at SFCC with a loser-out match between University (4-8) and North Central (1-9), followed by the title game matching Shadle (6-10) and Mt. Spokane (6-6).
“Both teams know each other pretty well, and it will come down to which team performs to their expectations,” said Campanella.
The University-North Central winner fill face the loser of that match on Friday, with the victor claiming the No. 2 Regional berth.
2A: District competition for the Great Northern League begins on Thursday, with third-seeded Pullman hosting No. 6 Clarkston at 4 p.m., with the winner to play second-seeded East Valley on Saturday at Gonzaga Prep.
In the other bracket, No. 4 Colville hosts No. 5 West Valley; the winner takes on regular-season champion and top-seeded Cheney on Saturday.
The District title match is May 7 at the home of the highest seed.
1A: Northeast A champion Lakeside will play host to Medical Lake on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Both teams will advance to Tri-District on Saturday.
Notes: And how did our preseason predictions hold up this spring? Not so well. GSL favorite Mead was unbeaten after five matches, but faded down the stretch to finish in a tie for fourth. No. 2 pick Ferris took the title – just ahead of Central Valley, which we picked for fourth. Pleasant surprises included G-Prep, which was picked for seventh but finished third; and Shadle Park, which finished sixth after being picked for eighth. … The 4A teams dominated this year, taking the top five spots in the standings and going 22-3 against 3A opponents.