The University girls’ soccer team has come a long way since Oct. 5 – on and off the field.
That’s when sophomore starter McKenzie Mott died in an automobile crash along with a classmate. The entire school struggled through the next week, which began with a candlelight vigil the next day at U-Hi.
Inevitably, the team had to move on. There were matches to play, all of them with Mott’s jersey draped on the bench, where it will remain the rest of the season.
The Titans won their next match, 1-0 over Mt. Spokane, the same team they’ll face again Wednesday night at 7 at Spokane Falls Community College. At stake is the District 3A championship, although both teams will advance to next week’s sub-regionals.
Shadle Park will face North Central at 5 p.m.; the loser will be the fourth seed to sub-regionals, while the winner will face the U-Hi-Mt. Spokane loser on Friday for the second and third seeds.
The Titans got this far by winning five of their last six matches since the loss of Mott, and finished third in the Greater Spokane League.
“The girls have been such a tight-knit group, through everything that’s happened,” said Titans coach Megan Poulson, whose team has matured through adversity on the field as well.
A pair of early shootout losses at Pasco and Richland, combined with a one-goal, pre-season defeat at defending State 4A champion Skyline of Sammamish, helped the team “realize that we can compete,” Poulson said. “That was a turning point, which told us that we can play with anyone now.”
Poulson credits captain Jennifer Loehner for a “great job of leading the team, by hard work every day, by example.”
Another key to the Titans’ 8-4 record (7-2 in the GSL), Poulson said, is the midfield play of Riley Rassier, Morgan Crosby and Kelsi Walker.
4A: Preaseason favorites Central Valley and Mead finished 1-2 in the GSL standings, with the Bears claiming the title when the Panthers fell to Mt. Spokane in the final regular-season game.
They’ll meet again tonight at 7:30 at SFCC for the district title and the top seed in regionals. The winner will host the Mid-Columbia Conference champion on Nov. 5 for the regional title and an automatic berth at state.
The loser will face the winner of tonight’s 5:30 loser-out game at SFCC – Lewis and Clark vs. Gonzaga Prep – on Friday for the second seed at Regionals.
Gonzaga Prep defeated Ferris 1-0 in overtime on Monday in a tie-breaker play-in game. Ferris was eliminated. Kenna Simon scored the winner two minutes into the extra frame on an assist from Laura Stockton. The Bullpups outshot the Saxons 10-4.
2A: First-round district action begins Thursday with Cheney at Pullman, with the winner traveling to East Valley on Nov. 5. In the other bracket, Colville is at Clarkston, with the survivor going to West Valley, also on Nov. 5.