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Mead returns a trio of All-GSL players, left to right, Kara Marburg, Kylie Drynan and Martha Heaps. (Colin Mulvany)

Tough to fence in

Three All-GSL returners make Mead contender

For much of last season, the Mead girls soccer team was a work in progress. A new coach, new system, new players – and a lopsided loss to rival Mt. Spokane.

“It was matter of transition, of trying to get my philosophy, to see how they played,” said Kevin Houston, the Panthers’ longtime boys’ coach who took over the girls’ program last year from Steve Snyder.

The work paid off at the end as the Panthers reached district and took off from there – all the way to a spot in the state quarterfinals.

There’s still more work ahead – the Panthers lost in a shootout at Camas after a scoreless tie – but the adjustments have been made.

“I’m hoping that we can pick up where we left off last year, because we have the capability to advance again,” Houston said.

He certainly has the weapons, with eight starters back from a team that last season seemingly got better with each match. After a 2-2 start in Greater Spokane League play, Mead won four of its last five matches to finish 6-3 in the GSL and 13-5 overall.

“Coach does a great job of putting us where the team needs us most,” said midfielder Martha Heaps, a senior captain.

Heaps and co-captain Kylie Drynan have the job of putting the ball where it’ll do the most good – usually at the feet of senior forward Kara Marbury. From there, Marbury is a big threat to score or pass. In the Panthers’ playoff run, she had two goals and three assists. In a first-round state playoff win against Kentridge, it was Marbury who broke a 1-1 halftime score with a goal and an assist.

“She is able to go to goal, and she’s not selfish,” Houston said. “Sometimes for me she passes off too often, because she has a shot, but that’s a great aptitude to have.”

Marbury acknowledges the point, but adds, “I like giving other people the ball.”

Usually that’s the job of Heaps, who along with Drynan runs the offense.

“She’s, very positive in her leadership, as well as being able to perform,” Houston said of Heaps. “She’s a strong, physical player as well.”

Then they’re Drynan, who just completed a hat trick of sorts by being named a team captain for the third straight year. “She’s got my respect,” Houston said. “She’s not as physical as Martha, but she’s got such quickness, and she’s able to see the field.”

Dryan, who was injured late last season and missed the playoffs, admitted, “It’s really cool to have the team look up to me, but I think all of our captains have done a great job.”

But then, everyone already knows that: Marbury and Heaps were first-team all-league selections last year, and Drynan was a second-team pick.