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Falcon defenders Coupe, Hamsa cage Tigers in shutout
LANGLEY — Scoring four goals was a type of therapy for the Falcons. South Whidbey quickly got past a 1-0 loss earlier in the week with a 4-0 rout of Granite Falls on Wednesday night.
Falcon seniors Noah Moeller and Jimmy Price led the way, each with one goal, in a dominating first half. It was a slow night for the Falcons’ two goalies, junior Andrew Holt and senior Garret Thomson, however, because Granite Falls never attempted a shot on goal.
“I think they played some of the best soccer I’ve seen so far,” said Falcon head coach Joel Gerlach after his team’s seventh shutout of the season.
“The reason we’ve had so many shutouts is because the defense is so good.”
South Whidbey (5-3 Cascade Conference, 6-3 overall) had four shots on goal, all by Moeller, within 10 minutes. Finally, Moeller broke free down the right sideline. Adam Hinze, the Tigers’ junior goalkeeper, charged the ball at the 15-yard-line, but Moeller chipped his shot over Hinze as he slid toward the kick in the 20th minute.
The Falcons’ leading scorer with 11 goals was far from finished. Moeller continued to sprint past the Tigers’ defense and force double teams. That let South Whidbey change its tactics and bring junior defender Cameron Coupe into the offense. Coupe had intercepted a long kick near the midfield line, and when nobody challenged him, he dribbled along the teams’ sideline toward the goalie’s box. From 15 yards out, Coupe took a shot that Hinze tipped right to Price, who tapped it in for the second goal of the night and his sixth this season.
“The statistics are the more times you get it in there, the goalie has to make big saves, and if they don’t make big saves they don’t control the ball,” Gerlach said.
The Tigers (1-6 Cascade Conference, 2-7 overall) never threatened the Falcons’ staunch defense and finished the game soaked in rain but dry in scoring. Granite Falls’ two best chances came on long kicks after South Whidbey moved seven players across the midfield line. Tiger sophomore mid Matt Wysocki chased after a long boot near the Falcons’ 15-yard-marker, where he was met by Coupe, who promptly stole the ball then reset the offense.
“Not only is he a really stout, solid defender, he’s also great at restarting the offense,” Gerlach said of Coupe.
In the second half, Thomson relieved Holt, who had filled in for the senior keeper during spring break. It was the first match Thomson had played since returning from a vacation on Monday. The second half was dull for Thomson, who finished without a save. After all, he never saw a shot on goal from the Tigers. Holt also saw the ball sparingly in the first half, once on a corner kick and once on a long free kick.
“I think I only touched the ball twice. Those free kicks and corner kicks always freak me out,” Holt said.
Gerlach put Holt in the offense at midfield in the second half. The decision quickly paid off when Holt scored off of a tipped save by Hinze.
South Whidbey hammered Granite Falls’ defense with seven shots on goal during the final 40 minutes. There were even more shots that sailed high as the Falcons extended their shooting line from the 15-yard-line to about 25 yards. Eventually, it just wore down the Tigers and enabled junior forward Stephen Lyons to score on a roller that Hinze had seemingly saved, only to have the wet ball slip out of his gloves and into the net.
Granite Falls had one last look on a long ball that Tiger junior forward Mitch Elvrom trapped near midfield. He sprinted down the right sideline toward the Falcon 15-yard, beat Falcon junior Sam Turpin, but was met by defenders Rudi Hamsa and Coupe. Hamsa patrolled the box most of the night, taking away long kicks and challenging the Tigers’ forwards with hard contact and stifling defense.
“We’re pretty used to it now,” said Hamsa of the physicality of the match. “We give back and don’t go overboard.”
The rain-drenched grass slowed the ball and made for a handful of comical kicks as both teams’ players wound up for big shots, only to have the ball slip off their shoe or their entire body slip off the field. A wet field and a slick ball made defense a little simpler, Hamsa said.
“In part, it made it easier because we could just wait for them to make a mistake,” he said.
Halfway through the season, South Whidbey has a few scores to settle. Against the top two teams in Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest, South Whidbey lost 1-0 each match. The Falcons lost 1-0 to Coupeville in a shootout at Waterman Field earlier this season that handed South Whidbey its first loss, but provided the Falcons with a reality check that no match is a given.
“We’re just going to keep preparing to beat those two teams we weren’t able to beat,” Gerlach said.