Three seasons; half-a-dozen schools and plenty of champions.
Beginning with the changing colors of autumn and the first kickoff of football to the final team cheer of softball under the spring sunshine, the 2009-10 high school sports year in the greater Spokane Valley featured first-rate competition, memorable state titles at University and Freeman and a valiant run at a crown in West Valley that fell just short.
After coaching for years in college and professional football, Bill Diedrick made a return to the Greater Spokane League last fall, guiding University to its first win of the season on Sept. 4. A pair of seniors, quarterback Tony Tabish and wide receiver Aaron Blaska provided an indication of the high-powered Titans offense in a 52-7 rout of Shadle Park. Tabish finished with 231 yards passing while Blaska had five catches for 118 yards. Both players would later be named to the All-GSL first team.
That same night, Taylor Evans of Central Valley put together one of the season’s most impressive efforts, rushing for 237 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Rogers.
While the U-Hi boys cross country team may not have had the crowds that showed up for football, the Titans still completed one of the most successful seasons in recent history, defeating traditional powerhouse Mead for the first time in a decade and advancing to regionals. Head coach Mike Barbero, who ran for the University state title teams of the late 1990s, said the team developed confidence as the season wore on.
“We knew our leadership was going to be better this season with a good group of juniors and seniors,” Barbero said.
In slowpitch softball, Central Valley ended University’s three-year run as GSL champs with a 6-1 win in the district title game. CV sophomore MacKenzie Shea was the offensive hero with three hits.
By mid-October, it appeared that the West Valley football team was for real after a gutsy 38-22 win over a tough Colville squad. Senior quarterback Drew Clausen passed for 241 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Eagles, who remained undefeated.
The WV volleyball squad continued to roll through the Great Northern League schedule led by players like Shaniqua Nilles and Bailey Wold. The team would move through the district and regional playoffs before finishing a respectable seventh at state.
In girls soccer, both University and West Valley saw their seasons end in the state bracket after dramatic wins in regionals. Senior DeeDee Garbe netted two goals in WV’s 2-1 over Deer Park before the Eagles lost to Ellensburg. Amy Thornton and Megan Dempsey accounted for late-game goals in U-Hi’s regional victory over Kennewick.
In late-season football, U-Hi lost a playoff qualifying game to eventual state runner-up Ferris and CV suffered a turnover plagued loss to Kamiakan in the first round of regionals. Meanwhile, West Valley clinched its first GNL crown with a 42-3 rout of Medical Lake. The team placed 14 on the All-GNL first and second teams, but head coach Craig Whitney said WV’s success hinged more on a team approach.
“We try to minimize the individual accomplishments and talk more about the team,” he said.
The Eagles would go on to shut out Selah 29-0 in the first round of the state 2A playoffs before edging Othello 28-22 in overtime to set up a semifinal game with undefeated Ellenburg. After a hard-fought 24-14 win over the Bulldogs, WV was on its way to the school’s first state championship game in 25 years.
While defending 2A champ Lynden prevailed 16-6 in a title game marked by costly West Valley turnovers, the Eagles walked off the Tacoma Dome field Dec. 12 to the proud cheers of the WV fans and community. The Eagles finished the year 13-1.
The University wrestling team would finish their season under the same concrete roof in Tacoma a few months later at the 2010 Mat Classic. Head coach Don Owen, who led his team to the state crown in 2005, had the Titans back on the awards stand as the No. 1 team in Washington.
University won all 10 of its first round matches at state on its way to a 156.5 to 114.5 win over Tahoma. Seniors Ryan Zumwalt and Jacob Mason took home individual titles while Tyler Clark and Jake Laden both took third in their weight class. For Owen, whose team went undefeated in the GSL and won prestigious events like the Rocky Mountain Tournament and the Pacific Northwest Classic, the state victory was the culmination of a memorable season.
“I think this team just got better as the year went on,” he said.
Quinn Tate-Gannon of West Valley earned an individual trophy in Tacoma, winning his second straight championship, this one at 130 pounds.
After a near-miss at state last season, the Freeman girls basketball squad was back in Yakima after a regular season that saw the Scotties lose only one game. This time around, senior Korina Baker made sure the squad would claim its first state basketball championship in school history.
Baker averaged 12 points and four assists over games in the state 1A bracket, emerging as the MVP after Freeman defeated Granger 56-35 in the final game. The victory marked the team’s 14th win in a row after a mid-season loss to Lakeside.
“Overall, it was just an amazing season,” said head coach Ashlee Taylor. “I’m just really proud of this team.”
Other winter highlights included the West Valley girls basketball team placing third at state for the second year in a row with a roster that included only one senior and the Central Valley girls team winning its first GSL regular season hoops title since 2004.
As a mild winter turned to spring, there was nothing placid about the Central Valley baseball team’s run to a league title.
Led by a dozen seniors, the Bears made a brave charge at the end of the year, winning their last seven games, including a two-game sweep over league-leading Mt. Spokane, to earn a share of the championship with the Wildcats. The momentum carried over into the district tournament where clutch performances by seniors like Joe Arlt and David Borgman propelled the team to a riveting 6-5, 11-inning win over Ferris for the title.
While CV’s road to a state crown ended with a loss to Eastmont in the state bracket, University’s run of three straight state appearances came to a halt with a first-round loss to Lewis and Clark in district play. The U-Hi softball team, meanwhile, vaulted to second place in the GSL, edged Mead for the district championship and advanced to state for the first time since 2005.
Medals were scarce at the state track competition in May as the Freeman boys squad, led by the state-best 4x100 relay team of Patric Spence, Peter Heinen, Jered Hinch and Tucker Rudy, led the Scotties to sixth place, the best team finish of any greater Spokane Valley school.
Other impressive spring feats included the Freeman boys golf team soaring to a second place finish at the state 1A golf tournament and the Central Valley boys soccer squad earning a share of its second GSL regular season title in three years.
Perhaps the most impressive effort of the spring was turned in by Central Valley sophomore Austin Pruitt who raced to four first-place finishes in the 4A wheelchair competition in Tacoma under soggy conditions.
“I was happy I did as well as I did, especially with the weather,” Pruitt said. “It makes me think about all the training and hours and all the people who helped me get where I am.”