Sports

Speed, skill land trio of soccer Falcons on all-league teams

Falcon junior goalie Andrew Holt lunges for a save against the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats this season.  - Ben Watanabe / Record file
Falcon junior goalie Andrew Holt lunges for a save against the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats this season.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / Record file

Joel Gerlach can hardly wait for next season.

And who can blame the Falcon boys soccer head coach? After all, South Whidbey had three players voted to the all-Cascade Conference teams, and all will return next year. Cameron Coupe, Connor McCauley and Andrew Holt were voted to the all-league teams after standout seasons. Coupe patrolled the backfield as the team’s center defender. McCauley roamed the pitch as a center midfielder. And Holt stepped in as goalkeeper for half the season, which was more than enough to be voted the all-conference second team’s keeper.

For Coupe, the nomination was an upgrade. Last year as a sophomore, Coupe was voted to the second team, and he appreciated the recognition this season.

“It felt really good, actually. It was really nice to have it for soccer,” said Coupe, who was also an all-conference kicker in football.

The diminutive defender was often given the tall task to guard the opposing team’s best scorer. Given South Whidbey’s seven shutouts and seven one-goal matches, Coupe and the defense did its part, other than a few outliers lie against the district’s top teams like Archbishop Murphy, Cedarcrest and Sehome.

“He’s fast, he’s strong; he really reads the defense well; he’s a great jumper,” Gerlach said. “Most of all, he’s a competitor. If somebody gets past him, he made sure to get the guy next time.”

Coupe had a knack for in-game learning. In the first half, he would give his opponent room to move. He watched the opposing player and learned what moves and tendencies to defend, which gave Coupe the jump to cut off an attack and steal the ball.

“He does really well at cutting the angles,” Gerlach said. “He’s just a natural at it.”

The natural said he enjoys the field of vision he has from the defense. There he watches formations unfold, and sometimes break down, which is when his leadership kicks in and Coupe tells his teammates where to be and how to defend.

“Being the center defender, I pretty much have the whole field in front of me,” Coupe said. “I like being the last guy.”

Another facet of that defense was McCauley. The junior midfielder roamed from playing up the field as a dribbler and passer to dropping back as an extra defender. McCauley’s versatility and voice, Gerlach said, made a lasting impression on the conference coaches.

“He’s a good ball handler, he’s not afraid to tackle to win,” Gerlach said. “He’s a really vocal player and he sees the field pretty good.”

Switching from defense to offense was McCauley’s specialty. If he got the ball in the Falcons’ half of the field, he’d look up, find his line and charge up the field with the ball before sending it to a forward or another midfielder. McCauley could change the pace of a game with a single possession.

“Even when he was playing in the defense last year, he was great at bringing the ball forward,” Gerlach said. “He knows the difference between when he needs to be an offensive player and a defensive player.”

Holt was another player who switched from offense to defense. Though, his transition was voluntary and necessary. Holt started the season as a reserve midfielder, and a tall one at 6 feet, 4 inches. Halfway through the conference schedule, senior keeper Garret Thomson injured his knee and was done for the season. Holt stepped in and filled the box, with the only other keepers both freshmen on the junior varsity squad.

“Andy, considering he didn’t train with the goalies, that’s a big thing,” Gerlach said. “We started working with him and noticed he’s just a natural talent.”

The Cascade Conference coaches noticed his abilities, too. Like when he shut out Granite Falls, held Sultan to a single goal and swatted away Burlington-Edison to advance in the district playoffs. Other than a 10-yard penalty kick, Holt was brilliant against Bellingham in the winner-to-state match.

“Everybody else can make mistakes all day long and it won’t hurt you,” Gerlach said. “The goalie makes a mistake and it counts against you because it’s usually a goal.”

Gerlach recalled a save, despite losing 5-1 to Archbishop Murphy, Holt had at Waterman Field against the Wildcats. A corner kick sailed high in front of the Falcons’ goal, Holt leapt and grabbed it with his hands a couple of feet above the crossbar, which is 8 feet tall.

“The whole stadium went, ‘Wow,’” Gerlach said. “That’s quite a feat for a guy to pull off.”

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