There’s a lot to like about this year’s Ferris boys soccer team – besides the fact that the Saxons are two wins from a state title.
“They have a lot of heart, and as far as technical ability, they’re among the best we’ve had,” said coach Robin Crain, who figures to see both qualities tested in Friday night’s State 4A semifinal game in Puyallup against top-ranked Skyview of Vancouver.
That goes doubly for the Ferris midfielders – Connor Ourada, Matt Belles, Jonathan Galgalo, Callan Martin and Mikias Repsold – a talented group that has helped the Saxons dominate possession and build attacks.
“And they rarely get subbed, so they have to run tremendous amounts,” Crain said.
That was the problem last year – Ourada couldn’t run at all after suffering a fractured right ankle. He missed the Saxons’ quarterfinal loss at Union of Vancouver.
“Until that happened, I never realized how big of a part of the team he was,” Belles said.
“He does a lot of talking, and puts us in the right place. And when I get the ball, the first person I see is Connor.”
The senior-dominated Saxons (17-2) are talented and balanced, but Ourada – who will play for Gonzaga this fall – is the key to their tight-passing, ball-control game. Ourada, a four-year letter winner, also is hard to separate from the ball, and is a key player in free kicks and corner kicks.
“Just to see what he’s done to get us this far is very significant,” Crain said.
That includes the Saxons’ fifth semifinal appearance and their first since 2010. If the Saxons win, they will play Snohomish or Kentwood in the title game at 5 p.m. Saturday, also at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Should Ferris lose, it will play in a third-place game at noon Saturday.
For Ourada, getting to the semifinals has brought relief as much as joy. He recalled last year’s injury, and even his freshman year, when the Saxons missed a chance for back-to-back semifinal appearances.
If those are chips on the Saxons’ shoulders, Ourada has a few more: Ferris will travel almost 300 miles to face the tournament favorites.
So will Ourada, who on Friday will see plenty of Skyview senior midfielder Carter Johnson, a two-time Gatorade state player of the year who has 24 goals and seven assists this season.
The 5-foot-11, 160-pound Johnson “always creates problems for us,” said Camas coach Roland Minder, whose team battled Skyview to two ties in the regular season and a shootout loss at district.
“He’s the one player Skyview cannot be without,” Minder told the Vancouver Columbian.
The Storm (17-0-3) are coming off a pair of convincing state playoff wins, including a 3-1 win over Wenatchee and a 2-1 victory at Curtis of Tacoma.
“We expect something similar to Camas,” said Crain, who is in the semifinals for the first time since 2010.
Ourada was only an eighth-grader then but watched from the stands.
“Now we have a chance to prove ourselves,” Ourada said.