In Alex Bray’s first two seasons as girls soccer coach at Ferris, the Saxons have learned all about what it means to come up just a tad short.
“Last year we missed the playoffs by one game,” he said. “Two years ago we missed by a point – even less than one game.”
That so-close-but-yet-so-far experience drove this year’s eight-player-deep senior class as they prepared for their final season.
“Some of us play together on club teams, but we still had some practices together without our coaches just to kick the ball around and get ourselves ready for the season,” senior defender Payton Royston said.
“We had to get our minds set and make that our goal,” senior defender Daria Markewych added. “We know that every game matters.”
Bray welcomed back a veteran unit that features eight seniors and five juniors. In all, seven starters are back for the Saxons, with four four-year starters leading the way.
“When we were freshmen there was a really good group of seniors on the team and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to give us a lot of confidence,” senior goalkeeper Maya Watson said. “We’re trying to do that this year with our freshman and sophomores.”
It helps that the lone freshman, Cadence Peroff, is a potent addition to the Ferris offense. She scored two goals in her first game – an 8-0 win at Lewiston to open the season.
Along with senior Yacine Bitibale, the Saxons now have a robust pair of forwards capable of scoring from distance or striking from close range.
Both have a knack for striking the ball with authority and provide a solid finish for a team that loves to push the ball up field quickly and play at a fast pace.
“I think our passing has been improving every game,” Bitibale said. “Cadence is a good passer. I think we have confidence in each other. It feels good to have that kind of chemistry with our team, and I think it will keep getting better.”
Bray has been impressed with how quickly Peroff has adjusted to the Ferris varsity.
“I haven’t seen her be intimidated at all,” he said. “I do think it took her a little while to adjust to just how physical the game is, but she never backed down an inch.”
“Cadence just has a great attitude,” Watson added. “She definitely isn’t timid, and I really love her happy attitude.”
That attitude got magnified after the Greater Spokane League season opener, a 3-2 win over Central Valley. It was the Saxons’ first win over the Bears since 2016, when then-freshman Bitibale scored twice in a 2-1 win – CV’s lone GSL loss that season.
It was once again a freshman who sparked the win, as Peroff notched two goals to give the Saxons a 2-0 lead going into the final five minutes. Central Valley rallied and notched a goal to halve its deficit, but Peroff answered with her third goal of the game in a 3-2 victory.
“I think CV got a little desperate late in that game and they pushed forward and our defense got out of shape a little,” Markewych said. “We’ve been working on that ever since that game, and I think we’re getting better.”
The Saxons split their first two league games, falling to Gonzaga Prep for the second time in September. The Bullpups blanked Ferris in a nonleague game, 2-0, and posted a 4-1 win in their league matchup.
“We started off our league season with two of our toughest games,” Bray said. “Every coach is going to tell you that his team should have been 2-0 after those two games, but going 1-and-1 after playing CV and Gonzaga Prep is pretty good. I think we improved the way we play defense against Gonzaga Prep.”
Royston put the win in context.
“When you get a win like that, it just gives you confidence,” she said. “And when we know you need to find more wins than we’ve had before, that really helps, too.”