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In defense of the Falcons

"Lindsey Binford is the defender of the year in the North Cascades soccer conference.Matt Johnson, staff photoLindsey Binford is the kind of soccer player who gives coaches nightmares.Not her own coach, but any other coach who has to field an offense against her.This week, the South Whidbey High School junior was named the soccer defender of the year for the North Cascades Conference through consensus of nearly every coach in the league. It is the highest honor that an NCC player can earn, along with the offensive player of the year award.The coaches' consensus comes out of respect and fear for a player who can run down any soccer player in the state and kick the ball from under her. Or, failing that, she can defend a net as well as any goalkeeper, as she did Tuesday night to ensure a 1-0 playoff win against Lakewood.She's been making plays like that all year, said Paul Arand, the head coach for the South Whidbey girls soccer team. A soccer player since she was seven, Binford has spent most of her short career in the defensive zone. Hers is often a thankless job that can't be examined quantifiably with statistics. She does not score and only rarely records a scoring assist. Even Binford herself finds it difficult to assess her performance, since it is impossible to say how many goals or potential scoring drives she prevents. Her job on the field is referred to as sweeper as she is charged with sweeping out any opponents who make it past the rest of the defenders. To do that, she has to study her opponents and find their weaknesses.I watch the field and reactions to the ball and make sure it never goes into the goal, Binford said Thursday, one day after being named the NCC's best defender.Until this year, Binford was often better known for her play on other teams. Last winter, she went to the state tournament as part of the girls basketball team. And every spring, she is one of the fastest sprinters on the track team.She is no longer a low-profile player. Her coach said that if sideline conversations between coaches are to be believed, Binford is the one player other coaches would prefer to see sitting on the sidelines. Every opposing coach he talked to said there was no way for a striker to get around Binford. To score, a player has to go through her, something that Arand said is nearly impossible.Arand said Binford's on-field persona was best reflected in a comment from Nooksack's head coach earlier this season.He said 'She's big, she's fast, she's strong, and she's smart,' Arand said.No one was more surprised by the honor than Binford herself. She said she was having a bad day Wednesday when her coach told her she is the defensive player of the year.I was so happy, she said. I didn't believe it either.She should be happy, since her team qualified for the state tournament Tuesday night by beating conference champion Lakewood in a district playoff game. But she also knows that the games she will play during the next week will be the biggest test of her soccer career.She won't face that test alone. The NCC coaches were also impressed with a number of her teammates. They voted sophomore Shannon Skouras and junior Deanne Waterman onto the NCC first-team, and junior Jaci Gutzmer and sophomore Michelle Schorr onto the NCC second team. Receiving honorable mentions were freshman Claudia Gil-Osorio and sophomore Kim Julius. "

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