Falcons aim high, look toward state tournament | SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Falcon co-captain and goalkeeper TJ Russell deflects a shot on goal during scrimmage. Russell, Pat Myatt and Dean Freundlich said they’re ready to lead the Falcons into the state tournament this season.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon co-captain and goalkeeper TJ Russell deflects a shot on goal during scrimmage. Russell, Pat Myatt and Dean Freundlich said they’re ready to lead the Falcons into the state tournament this season.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

All of the 52 players who tried out for Falcon boys soccer came to be part of Joel Gerlach’s vision to reach the state tournament.

Senior co-captain Pat Myatt stated the team’s goal simply and without hesitation.

“Win state,” Myatt said. “We’re very good, we’re very talented, we got a lot of players that can really play.”

Having 52 high school athletes try out for a high school soccer team means something is going well.

“It’s the best sport,” Myatt said. “That’s why it’s the most popular sport in the world. People want to play soccer and they just want to have fun.”

That’s the “good” problem that Gerlach, South Whidbey’s head boys soccer coach, had this season. He pared the team down to about 20 athletes who will see varsity playing time. The cuts he made were difficult.

“That’s the part I hate,” Gerlach said.

A trio of Falcon seniors will lead South Whidbey’s futbol club toward that goal. Gerlach selected Myatt (center-forward), TJ Russell (goalkeeper) and Dean Freundlich (center defender) as his team’s leaders.

The three work together like the checks-and-balances of the three parts of the U.S. government. Myatt is the executive branch — boisterous and decisive, leading the team up and down the field. Russell is the judicial branch — calm, assertive and mediatory. Freundlich is the legislative branch — he doesn’t sign laws, but the way his teammates listen to his advice, critique and encouragement, he might as well. Plus, Freundlich has been in office a full term (he’s a four-year varsity starter).

Myatt, a three-year varsity footballer, sounded like a seasoned captain in his explanation of how he wants to lead.

“I just want to have a positive influence and just lead on the field and off the field,” Myatt said.

“I want to push the expectations people have of me.”

Russell, a three-year varsity player and returning starting goalkeeper, deflected any privilege or honor that may be assumed to accompany a team captain’s title.

“I’m not too worried about that title,” Russell said. “It’s all about the wins.”

Russell also played football and basketball for South Whidbey. He refuted the thought that the positions he played in the three sports seem to require different skill sets, and instead saw them all working interchangeably.

In football, he was a receiver and said the positions aided one another with the ability to move and use his hands to catch a high–velocity ball. In basketball, he said being a point guard meant he called and relayed the offensive and defensive sets, and he will also command the defense in soccer.

“Me and Dean [Freundlich] are going to work out really well this year, because we worked out really well last year,” Russell said. “We know who to mark up and what to talk about with the defense.”

In addition to advancing to the state tournament, Russell said the team wants to win the Cascade Conference title.

“You always shoot for state,” Russell said. “You never shoot for last place.”

South Whidbey finished last season 7-6 in conference play and 7-8 overall. The 2010 Falcons were held scoreless four times and lost six games by two or more goals.

The team’s record put it in third place among the six teams in the 2A division and advanced it to the District 1 playoffs with the Northwest Conference. In the district tournament, South Whidbey was eliminated in its first two games against Bellingham and Squalicum.

The captains said the team’s unity and natural chemistry will help it take the next step and improve upon last season. Russell said the group’s experience and defense will allow South Whidbey the opportunity to advance to the district and state tournaments.

“Everyone being as close as we are, I think that’s going to put us over the edge and put us into state this year,” Myatt said.

Gerlach said he brought in a couple freshmen to the varsity team, edging out some veteran players. He put the burden of bringing those players up to speed on himself and his co-captains.

“We need to give them wisdom and the kind of guidance of what you’re going to see in a game,” Russell said. “Practice and a game are just completely different, no matter how hard you try to make practice like games.”

The 2A competition will be stiff at the top of the conference.

Archbishop Murphy claimed first place in the conference last season with a 11-3 record. Cedarcrest finished in second place with nine wins and five losses in conference play.

The games against Archbishop Murphy were highlights from each of the captains, who wanted to redeem last season’s home loss.

“It can prove that we’re the best team in the conference, because I think we’re the best team in the conference,” Myatt said.

Myatt said the players’ selflessness and position diversity make South Whidbey the best team in the conference. And South Whidbey will have chances to prove it with home–and–away series with Archbishop, King’s and Cedarcrest.

“We need to be a team,” Myatt said. “We all need to be leaders. When you’re there you don’t need to lose your temper, just stay cool through the whole game.”

Myatt praised Gerlach’s influence on his play.

“Everything I am today is because of Joel [Gerlach],” Myatt said. “My passing, my shooting, my confidence — those all come from Joel. Joel’s just a great guy.”

Before the season can end, it has to start. South Whidbey’s boys soccer team began the season on Tuesday, March 15 at Friday Harbor. Then it’s on to the next game, like a crumb trail leading the Falcons to the state tournament.

“I’m really anticipating going to state,” Freundlich said. “That’s a big goal of mine.”

Boys soccer

Saturday, March 19, Mount Baker* (2 p.m.)

Tuesday, March 22, Granite Falls*

Friday, March 25, Sultan (7 p.m.)

Tuesday, March 29, Lakewood*

Friday, April 1, Coupeville

Tuesday, April 5, Cedarcrest*

Friday, April 8, King’s (7 p.m.)

Monday, April 11, Archbishop Murphy*

Wednesday, April 13, Granite Falls (5 p.m.)

Friday, April 15, Sultan*

Tuesday, April 19, Lakewood 7 p.m.

Friday, April 22, Coupeville*

Monday, April 25, Cedarcrest

Wednesday, April 27, King’s*

Friday, April 29, Archbishop Murphy - Kasch Park (5:30 p.m.)

*Home game. All games start at 6 p.m. unless noted.

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