Oct. 5—In the first season in program history last year, the Ridgeline girls soccer team qualified for the District 8 playoffs — the fifth of five seeds from the Greater Spokane League in the eight-team field.
It was a remarkable achievement for a team that barely knew each other at the start of training. Still, after a tough loss in the first round to top-seeded Mt. Spokane and a 1-0 loss on penalty kicks to Walla Walla in the third-place bracket, coach Tiera Como's team felt like it left something on the table.
"Last year, we got out to Walla Walla and it ended in PKs in a shootout and we were really disappointed in our score," junior forward Preslie Young said. "So I think this year, we want to go to state and we want to prove that Ridgeline is here to play and last year was not our best season."
So far, so good.
After a 5-2 win over North Central on Monday, a game in which Young scored twice, the still-young Falcons are 7-2 on the season and 3-2 in league. They are ranked No. 10 in the state for 3A according to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association's RPI system — highest among GSL 3A teams.
Ridgeline's only losses are to two 4A schools: Gonzaga Prep and Lewis and Clark — both ranked in the top 10 in state 4A.
"I think we surprised people a little bit last year, and I think they're expecting us a little bit more this year," Como said at practice Tuesday afternoon. "We're going strong this year — and I do have pretty high expectations this year."
Young said she and her teammates have noticed the recognition.
"It's so exciting," she said. "It feels very good."
"Last year we were definitely a little underestimated, because we did not have as many players as rest of the schools," sophomore Natalie Thompson said. "This year, I do think a lot of teams have underestimated us and we've surprised them."
Young thinks the Falcons are fueled by the ranking, but other teams may be as well.
"I think teams show up with more determination to win because they want us to get put lower in the rankings, but I think it's fine," she said. "I think we're gonna do very good for the rest of the season."
Como was a bit more reserved on the ranking.
"I think I was the last one to find out," she said.
"It was a little nerve-wracking, going into last week's games seeing where (they were ranked). It's like, 'Yeah, let's stop looking at that one, guys.' "
Como sees the recognition as a positive. It helps, she said, that with no seniors from the previous season they were able to bring back the entire team and have a summer program to further jell.
"This whole school is all about community and building a community within Greenacres and Liberty Lake," Como said. "So I feel like these guys are starting to make it known that Ridgeline is a soccer school. It's pretty awesome — female sports in this school are rocking it this year."
Young and Thompson are a formidable duo at the top of Ridgeline's formation. Young has 13 goals with three assists while Thompson has six goals, four assists. Como likes the combination of Thompson's field vision and Young's speed and finishing ability.
"Natalie has great foot skills and ball awareness," she said. "And Preslie is just a powerhouse where she can run past anybody, any defender, at any time. What's been awesome is even since last year, the two of them worked together so well it was either one scoring or the other one was assisting in almost every other goal we had.
"The two of them together make a dynamite team. And then when you add in our central (midfielders) and our outside mids, there's times where during the game that we're untouchable."
"I think we have a lot of trust," Young said of her relationship with Thompson. "We've been playing together for two years and just in that short amount of time we really build off each other and we know how we play. She knows I like through balls. I know that she likes to connect and pass on the field. So we get each other."
"I think our chemistry works really well," Thompson said. "Our ball knowledge is really good and so our quality is super good together because we kind of read each other's minds in what we want to do."
Young's speed on the pitch in an asset. In last year's state track meet, as a sophomore, she was fifth in the 200-meter dash, 18th in the 100 and part of Ridgeline's third-place 4x400 relay team.
"I get a lot of through balls," Young said. "And then I just dribble it up and take easy shots."
The Falcons have four games left in the regular season, starting with a game Wednesday against Mead (7-3, 3-2) at home. It's the only time the teams meet and both are a game behind University (8-2, 4-1) — though Ridgeline beat the Titans 3-2 in overtime in September.
"I think (Mead) is gonna show up, but we will too," Young said. "We really want to keep our streak going and I just don't think we're gonna back down."
Thompson said it's important they treat each of their last four games the same.
"I just think not giving up on each other and no matter how we play or no matter what our previous result is, to just come out and come as hard as we can."
Young, Thompson and the rest of their teammates are setting an example for future Falcons.
"I think it kind of puts a lot of pressure on us," Young said. "We're the first. We gotta make history, we've got to set records and kind of set a speed for all the other years to come and be like, 'Hey, we gotta live up to that.' We got to keep going."