Award-winning Waibel guiding Huskies into unprecedented territory

Former Shadow PDL standout off to fantastic start in collegiate coaching ranks

Only three years removed from playing his final Major League Soccer game for the Houston Dynamo and in his second season as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Spokane native and former Spokane Shadow PDL standout Craig Waibel has the University of Washington on the verge of the NCAA Final Four with a home contest against New Mexico. The game can be seen on the Pac-12 Networks.   

“It has been a year of steady growth and continued improvement for our guys,” Waibel told INWsoccernews. “They have battled as tough as any of their competitors and have found ways to win game through efficient play, and at times beautiful soccer.  But their spirit and their humility is their true strength. They also possess the ability to win games ugly when needed.  They have the confidence in themselves to set aside their ideals of the beautiful game and roll up their sleeves. And in doing so, they show their maturity as a group and their overwhelming desire to succeed on the field.
“Throughout the year we have had a number of guys step up to the challenges in front of them. We have played in three different formations and our guys have played them all with confidence and dedication to succeed for one another.  I can’t say enough about this group of guys. Camaraderie and respect within the team is a unique balance in any locker room... and right now they have it.”

The Huskies are in uncharted waters having won two NCAA tournament games and reaching the Elite Eight for the first time in program history. The second-seeded Huskies are 16-1-4 this season and are statistically 17th in the nation defensively under the tutelage of the 11-year MLS defender, who helped the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo win a combined four MLS Cups, a Supporters’ Shield and a US Open Cup title. 

The team’s defensive success garnered honors for the former Husky as he was named Regional Assistant Coach of the Year for the Far West by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Thursday. He was one of eight around the nation to be recognized.   

“I am honored to get the award as it is voted on by my peers only,” Waibel said of the award. “I have always treasured awards voted on by peers as they are the people that truly understand the ins and outs of this job.”   

INWsoccernews caught up with Waibel when he was in Spokane earlier this season for the Huskies’ showdown at Gonzaga, a close-fought contest that finished 1-0 in favor of Washington. 

Waibel on Shadow re-launch: “I love it. Those were some of the best days for me. I would play all school year at Washington and come back here during the summer and play in front of loyal, big crowds,” he said of his first experience of playing before big crowds. “I mean, back then we were getting 3,000 to watch our PDL games and more. And to have that experience is priceless because it puts you in environments with pressure and performance anxiety - those things you need to deal with when you are young so you're ready for the next opportunity that comes.”  

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