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Falcons lose in shootout to Bellingham Red Raiders
BELLINGHAM — Two more inches, and South Whidbey could have won.
Two more inches to his left, and Falcon senior midfielder Michael Grimm’s penalty kick goes into the back of the net.
Two more inches to his right, and Falcon senior goalkeeper TJ Russell is again the hero and stops the decisive goal.
Instead, Grimm’s kick slammed into the post and bounced away at a 45-degree angle. Russell didn’t save Pablo Orna Sanchez’s kick and South Whidbey lost 1-0 to Bellingham in a 5-4 decision via shootout in the District 1 playoff soccer game.
“You gotta hold your head high,” said South Whidbey head coach Joel Gerlach of Russell. “He made one penalty save; he made about 12, 13 saves throughout the game. He just did an outstanding job.”
The Falcons will need Russell’s shutout defense against their next opponent. Gerlach said the game’s outcome should not be burdened by Russell.
“What you say to a player like that is, ‘You can grow from this or you can let it drag you down,” Gerlach said. “‘And I need you to grow from this because we’ve got more games to play, more games that we can win.’”
More than the 80 minutes of regulation play were needed to decide this slugfest. It needed more than the two, five-minute sudden death periods, too.
“If this is the best that there is, I feel like we’re gonna to keep going,” Gerlach said.
The game sent Bellingham to the winner’s bracket and South Whidbey one loss from elimination.
“I knew it was going into PKs [penalty kicks], and I trusted my goalie,” said South Whidbey senior midfielder and co-captain Pat Myatt. “And I’ll trust him [until] the day I die. I love the kid.”
South Whidbey shot first.
Cameron Coupe faked left and scored right.
Red Raiders forward Kyle Angle scored on the left side.
Grimm’s shot hit the left post.
Arie Vanderstaay’s shot rolled past Russell’s diving hands.
Turpin and Bellingham midfielder Jesse Bolch traded goals. McCauley and Bellingham midfielder Riley Michel traded goals.
Myatt, the fifth-and-possibly-final penalty kicker, scored.
The Falcons needed a save.
Sanchez stepped to the line. Russell planted his feet down, bent his knees and straightened his back. His eyes locked onto Sanchez’s and waited for a sign, a hint of his shot’s direction.
Sanchez kicked and the ball flew toward the left side of the goal where Russell leaped and saved the goal.
That sent the game into one more penalty kick from each team.
Russell stepped out of the box and onto the penalty kick marker. His kick rolled to the left, but was saved by Bellingham goalie Auden Schilder.
Then, Pablo Orna Sanchez scored his game-winner.
Russell hung his head and fell to the turf. Myatt ran over and helped his teammate and his goalie up.
Given Bellingham’s pedigree, South Whidbey knew it was in for a tough match.
Bellingham is the second seed in the Northwest Conference and the defending 2A state champion. The Red Raiders beat Cheney 2-1 in the 2010 championship game.
“I was pretty confident,” said Bellingham head coach Matt Zigulis about the shootout. “But, I still never wanted to be in that situation to begin with.”
Expectations are high for Bellingham, and their coach was glad to advance, but unhappy with his team’s performance.
“It’s a wake-up call to our team,” Zigulis said. “We weren’t what we expected. I expect better from them. They expect better from themselves.”
Even so, Bellingham kept South Whidbey’s defense busy. Russell had nine saves in regulation, including eight in the second half. He added two more in the sudden-death overtime periods, and one in the shootout.
“They’re defending champs and we knew what we were getting into,” said Falcon sophomore defender Connor McCauley.
“The defense—we had to work hard. And I believe we have the best defense in the district. We have a very strong defense and probably the best goalie in
2A state [classification], and I was confident and proved [right],” he said.
Zigulis acknowledged Russell’s effort and talent in the box.
“I thought their [South Whidbey’s] keeper played an excellent game,” he said.
Bellingham was blanked only twice this season. The first shutout was by Squalicum — a 1-0 loss. The second shutout was by Sehome, and it ended in a draw. In 16 games, the
Red Raiders averaged 3.06 goals per game, and scored more than three goals in six games (all victories).
Zigulis was flummoxed by his team’s inability to score.
“We just weren’t able to score goals. It’s as simple as that,” Zigulis said.
South Whidbey’s defenders were part of the reason Bellingham didn’t score until the shootout.
McCauley was assigned to defend Matt Sanchez, the Red Raiders’ leading scorer.
Sanchez ran all over the field and had several breakaways that would have been one-on-ones with Russell until McCauley, or fellow sophomore defender Cameron Coupe, stopped him.
“He’s really fast,” McCauley said of Sanchez. “But, I mean, I’ve been designated as the guy to mark, so I knew my job and I knew I just had to keep him. And I really got to thank Cameron [Coupe] for helping me out a lot of times. When he [had] me beat, Cameron saved me.”
Sanchez’s frustrations took over in the second sudden death overtime.
He high-kicked a shot on goal as Russell approached the high-bouncing ball. Sanchez’s kick sailed five feet over the crossbar, and Russell took exception to the kick being near his head.
Sanchez stepped toward Russell and shoved him back and Russell fell to the ground.
The head official whistled for unsporting behavior and gave Sanchez a yellow card. Zigulis pulled him out for a minute, then reinserted him onto the field.
Gerlach said he thought Sanchez deserved a red card for shoving Russell to the ground.
“He’s their leading scorer,” Gerlach said of Sanchez. “He’s considered one of the best players in this conference and they shut him down.”
The Falcon offense worked best when it was frantic. South Whidbey had four shots on goal in the first half and six overall.
Sam Turpin, sophomore midfielder, had the Falcons’ best shot near the end of the first half.
“The first half, we played the best soccer we played all year — the best soccer we played all four years I’ve been here,” Myatt said.
In the final minutes of regulation play, the frenetic Falcon pace almost fell their way.
Myatt broke free on the north sideline from a chip pass. He beat three defenders and closed in on the right post.
About 10 yards out, Myatt wound his leg back and shot at the goal. Bellingham goalie Auden Schilder slid and knocked Myatt’s shot out of bounds.
Two inches shorter, and Schilder doesn’t stop that shot on goal. Falcon pride was not lost in Bellingham, however.
“Our confidence isn’t down; our confidence is raised,” Myatt said.
South Whidbey played Squalicum on Tuesday, May 10 after the Record went to press.
The fourth-seeded Squalicum Storm (9-2-2 NWC; 9-5-3 overall) lost 4-3 to the first-seeded Archbishop Murphy Wildcats (12-0-2 in Cascade Conference; 14-0-2 overall).
The Storm is unlikely to pass quietly. Squalicum beat Cheney 4-0 in the 2A state boys soccer tournament championship in 2009.
Eleven years ago, South Whidbey lost to Wahluke 2-1 in double overtime in the state championship game.