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SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW | Junior-loaded squad wants to regain 2011 momentum
LANGLEY — Joel Gerlach has all the pieces he needs. Now, he’ll spend the boys soccer season finding how they fit together to advance past the District 1 playoffs and qualify for the 2A state tournament.
South Whidbey has five seniors and is bolstered by a corps of juniors who all played varsity last year. More than that, those juniors have played soccer together since their days on the U-10 South Whidbey Youth Soccer Club team. Chemistry may be an understatement when they’re on the field.
“The junior team has been together since U-10 soccer,” said junior Cameron Coupe. “We know how they work, and it’s easier to mesh with the seniors.”
Add in the booming kick of senior forward Noah Moeller, the smothering by senior defender Rudi Hamsa and vaunted improvements by senior goalie Garrett Thomson, and the Falcon soccer team may have the right composition to take the conference crown.
“There’s a ton of enthusiasm behind us. Everybody’s really excited and has determination,” Moeller said. “We have a lot of talented players. I was a little worried about defense, but it’s coming together a lot better than I thought it would.”
Last season, the Falcons started poorly. Through the first eight games, South Whidbey had a 3-5 record, with no draws. The Falcons lost to lower-ranked teams like Sultan and Coupeville, and were trounced by conference-leading Archbishop Murphy. Avoiding letdowns will be crucial for the Falcons’ chances of making the district tournament again.
“We need to go into every game like it’s the toughest team,” Coupe said. “It seemed last year that sometimes we’d get into kind of a lull and play down to their level. We just need to play at our peak potential.”
In the second half of the season, South Whidbey rattled off five consecutive wins before losing 1-0 to both King’s, a conference leader, and Archbishop Murphy. The close losses have put those teams square in the Falcons’ sights as the squads to beat.
“I really want to get back that 1-0 loss against Archbishop Murphy last year,” Coupe said.
The AMHS Wildcats graduated only four seniors and return the core of the team with six juniors. South Whidbey lost several seniors, including three all-conference players and others at vital positions. The Falcons lost their goalie, center midfielder and center defender. The Falcons, however, have Moeller, who led the team in scoring until a concussion in the middle of the season kept him off the field.
There was some concern that he may not be able to play this year. Moeller was determined to return, though he may have some added gear. He is considering playing with a padded helmet.
“I’m not going to let that affect my game play,” Moeller said.
South Whidbey needs its senior leader to stay healthy. His teammates and coaches agreed that he’s the focal point of the Falcon offense. Coupe said Moeller has the best kick and the best touch.
“The shots he takes are just crazy,” Coupe said.
South Whidbey made it to the district tournament but was eliminated in the second round. This year, the Falcons want to advance past districts and on to the 2A state tournament, and they know it starts with their Cascade Conference opponents.
“If we’re going to make a run to state, which he hope to, those are the games that will matter the most,” Thomson said.
South Whidbey’s successful season a year ago stemmed from defense. The Falcons won four shutout games and three one goal matches. Offense at times was a struggle, as the Falcons were kept scoreless in seven matches and averaged 1.8 goals per game (they allowed only 1.2 goals per game).
In order to improve its offense, Moeller said they need to focus on quality possessions, not quantity. That means playing in the middle, passing the ball and moving well together.
“We have a lot of speed, but I think we work better with more ball control, passing and working the whole field than just moving up the side,” Moeller said.
Falcon fans have their first chance to see how this new-look team works at 6 p.m. Friday, March 23 against the Sultan Turks.