Richland faces tough test against GSL top seed Central Valley

Jack Millikin, Herald staff writerOctober 29, 2012 

Richland is just far enough away from Spokane to be out of sight, out of mind.

But when the Greater Spokane League visits Bomber Field for a girls soccer match, the results are always memorable.

The Bombers (12-4) will play host to Central Valley (12-2), the top 4A seed out of the GSL, at 4 p.m. today in Richland in the first round of the 4A regional tournament.

Bombers coach Sara Elfering has spent most of her adult life as part of the Richland soccer program, including the last four seasons as head coach. The former all-Big Nine midfielder remembers hooking horns with the neighbors to the north when she was still in roaming the halls of Richland High School and her own players were still wearing diapers.

“I was still in school when we made a run to the Final Four in 1998. We beat Central Valley in the second round of state before facing Pasco in the quarterfinals,” Elfering said.

That might have been the last time the Bears (12-2) visited Richland (12-4) for a playoff game, but it’s certainly not the first time a solid GSL opponent has come down looking for a fight.

“In my second year, Lewis and Clark came down a year after putting us out (of the playoffs) in Spokane. We scored a late goal and thought we had it won, but they came back and scored two unanswered goals to win,” Elfering said. “That was pretty brutal. That one hung around a long time for me.”

Richland has played well in recent weeks, having won 10 of its last 11 games, including its 12th district title with an impressive 4-0 win over Pasco on Saturday. The Bombers have two of the top five scorers in the Mid-Columbia Conference in Kirsten Calmus (16 goals, 7 assists) and Samantha Heilman (12 g, 10 a), plus one of the league’s top goalkeepers in Samantha Beck (0.67 goals against average, 7 shutouts).

But one thing the Bombers won’t be is overconfident.

“In the playoffs, the team that gets through the tight games is the one who has the most players show up with their best game,” Elfering said. “It should be a really good game. It’s always an unknown to face somebody you haven’t seen. It brings an excitement, but a little nervousness, too.”

Central Valley will bring plenty of its own offense, with top goal scorers Kasey Ames (11 g, 4 a) and Savannah Hoekstra (11 g, 3 a). Hailey Spooner (8 g, 4 a) and Sara Grozdanich (7 g, 3 a) can pick up the slack at any time.

North Central (3-10) at Kamiakin (13-1-1), 4 p.m., Lampson Stadium: The Braves were the top team out of the MCC, but that doens’t mean they will take the Indians lightly.

“We watched them play, and Shadle Park owned most of the game,” Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson said. “I think the GSL is pretty strong. In my years of scouting, I found you can’t really tell about a team until you’re matched up against them yourself.”

The teams do have one common opponent — Gonzaga Prep. The Braves fought the Bullpups to a scoreless draw in early September, and Prep topped North Central 6-0 in midseason.

Ellie Heiden (13 g) and goalkeeper Sydnee Grant (0.40 GAA, 3 SO) lead Kamiakin, while Jenna Jensen is the Indians’ top threat.

Shadle Park (4-10) at Hanford (8-6), 4 p.m., Hanford HS: The Falcons were one of the most dangerous teams in the MCC, losing five matches by just one goal and handing Kamiakin its only loss. Hanford is led by Monica Rowley (6 g) and Sydney Shintaffer (6 g, 5 a), and the Falcons have the best goalkeeping duo in the MCC in Emily Busselman (0.62 GAA, 3 SO) and Cecily Bader (0.89 GAA).

Cassie Berg (4 g) and Alyssa Novak (4 g) lead the Highlanders.

Southridge (5-9) at University (10-5), 4 p.m.: The Suns won the CBBN 3A league and district championships in 2011 before a painful first-round loss at state. They’ll be motivated to erase that memory against the Titans.

Southridge returns Hannah Sanders (9 g, 5 a) and Michelle Foster (4 g, 8 a), two key forces in their playoff run last season and a solid keeper in Alexa Adams (1.69 GAA).

University is led by Kelsi Walker (7 g, 5 a) and Riley Rassier (7 g) and goalkeeper Taylor Lang (5 SO).

Kennewick (1-14) at Mt. Spokane (15-0), 4 p.m.: The Lions look to build on their first win in four seasons after a 2-1 victory over Sunnyside. The win resulted in a high emotional payoff for Kennewick, one that they could use to surprise the GSL’s top-ranked team.

The Lions picked a good time to win their first match since 2008, a shootout win over Davis. They hadn’t won a regular-season match in their last 59 tries.

But because Kennewick’s win came in the first round of the playoffs, they get to keep their dream alive.

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