Billy Sleeth and Abbas Faridnia have proven themselves on the soccer field. So have their teammates.
With Sleeth and Faridnia playing key roles, the Ferris Saxons advanced to the state championship game last spring, losing 1-0 to Eastlake.
This year, they hope to do better, but it won’t be easy, even with nine starters back.
“We have a lot of skill, but we can’t think we’re too good,” said Sleeth, a defender.
Faridnia, an attacking midfielder, added, “Hopefully, we don’t get overconfident. We have to work harder day in and day out. We can’t take things for granted. We have a lot of talent but we have to work hard.”
To believe that, they only have to look at this newspaper, under Greater Spokane League soccer scores, where it showed the Saxons lost three straight games in shootouts to league rivals in non-league games.
“To get to the (state) final four you have to have a lot of luck, it don’t matter how good you are,” Saxons coach Robin Crain said. “Last year, every bounce went our way, every bounce, except in the district tournament finals… . This year, every one has gone against us. You’re only as good as your last game. We have been incredibly unlucky. Any time you take 30 shots a game and don’t get a goal, you’re unlucky… . We have to turn it into a positive. We’ve got to work. We can’t step on the field and have this thing handed to us.”
No, the GSL is too balanced and talented this year. Little separates the top eight teams.
“All the teams are very good,” Crain said. “As far as parity throughout the league, this is it, with really good players. I think we’re pretty good. We did lose key (seniors), sweeper Pat Hull and first-team midfielder Brent Molsberry. They weren’t the most skilled players but they were the biggest impact players as far as leadership.”
That’s where seniors Faridnia and Sleeth, who met when two rec teams combined 10 years ago, come in.
Though the Saxons are talented, only Sleeth and Faridnia are veterans of the Olympic Development Program. Sleeth was all-league as a sophomore and Faridnia was MVP last year. Both have scholarships in hand, Sleeth to Washington, Faridnia to Gonzaga. Faridnia is starting his second year as a developmental player with the Spokane Shadow.
“You’ve got to show you still want to win,” Faridnia said. “Players can take off that.”
That is what Crain was hoping to hear.
“They have to play up to their potential and they have to bring other players along with them,” the coach said. “They have to have their games fit into the team concept. They just have to play hard every day.” , Both seem to be willing to accept the responsibility that comes with having a reputation.
“I try not to let (being targeted) change me and just play,” Sleeth said. “I don’t worry about it. I like that (challenge).”
Faridnia called it the game within the game.
Faridnia missed a game last year for responding to a red card with a rude gesture. He learned a tough lesson.
“I think so,” he said. “If I would have done that with the Shadow, I would never play. It’s better to do that when you’re young and learn. It was stupid, though. It’s a matter of me keeping cool, not getting mad if things don’t go my way.”
Soccer has been Faridnia’s life, having come from a soccer family.
“I grew up around it… . It’s almost like second nature,” he said. “It’s constant action… . I met a lot of friends, too.”
Sleeth, on the other hand, was a member of the Saxons’ state-placing basketball team, which basically eliminated any chance he had to try out for the Shadow.
“I wanted to do it, but state basketball is a once in a lifetime as a senior,” he said. “I have a whole season of soccer. I go through stages where I like basketball (more) but I’ve always liked soccer. Every once in a while, I think I should be playing indoor. But I have no regrets. Basketball helped me.”
For the Saxons to maneuver through the GSL minefield and the rigors of the playoffs, Sleeth and Faridnia have to lead the way.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GSL BOYS SOCCER Regular season: Begins Monday, Ferris at Gonzaga Prep; Lewis and Clark at North Central; Central Valley at Rogers; Mead at Shadle Park; University at Mt. Spokane. All games 4 p.m. Schedule: There are nine league games. Each team had four non-league games against league foes and had the option to pick up three other games. Point system: Three points awarded for regulation or overtime win, one for shootout win, no points for loss of any kind. Last season: Ferris won the league, ending Mead’s 12-year run, but North Central won the district title. NC and Ferris won firstround state games but the Saxons beat NC in the playoffs and advanced to the state championship game, losing 1-0 to Eastlake. Returning all-league: MVP: Abbas Faridnia, forward, Ferris. First team: Garth Cummings, forward, Ferris; Zach Kingsley, MF, Shadle; Spencer Leonard, midfield, G-Prep; Grant Falco, midfield, University; Billy Sleeth, defense, Ferris; Jeff Dixson, defense, G-Prep. Second team: Eric Johnson, midfield, NC; Nick Byrd, midfield, G-Prep; Thomas Ghezzi, defense, Ferris (injured); Tommy Servine, goalie, Ferris. New coaches: Gabe Witherell, Lewis and Clark; Craig Busch, Mt. Spokane, moved from Mead; Travis Hanson, Mead; Craig Griffiths, Central Valley. Postseason: Top five make district tournament. Two, including league champion, advance to state playoffs. Predicted order of finish: 1. Ferris. 2. Gonzaga Prep. 3. Mead. 4. Lewis and Clark. 5. Shadle Park. 6. University. 7. Central Valley. 8. North Central. 9. Mt. Spokane. 10. Rogers.
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