Sports

Seeing Greene: Falcon goalie secures shootout victory over rivals

Falcon junior midfielder Maia Sparkman stops her dribble into Coupeville’s half Tuesday. South Whidbey won the island rivalry 2-1 in a shootout.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon junior midfielder Maia Sparkman stops her dribble into Coupeville’s half Tuesday. South Whidbey won the island rivalry 2-1 in a shootout.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Ellie Greene flustered Coupeville all game.

A pair of saved goals in a shootout had the Wolves seeing red Tuesday night. Greene’s stunning block and catch propelled South Whidbey to a 2-1 victory against its Whidbey Island rival Coupeville. The win also secured South Whidbey’s position in the tri-district 1A girls soccer playoffs as at least the second seed from the Cascade Conference.

“It’s one of the worst moments, watching the ball go to her,” said Falcon junior defender Jaime Rodden. “But once she saved it, it was amazing.”

The winless Wolves played a sound soccer match. But in the shootout, it came down to the better goalkeeper. And Greene’s athleticism and reflexes prevailed as she saved two penalty kicks, to go along with her four saves in regulation.

Alternating between Coupeville (1-10 Cascade Conference; 1-12 overall) and South Whidbey, the Wolves struck first in the shootout with a score by senior Amanda d’Almeida.

South Whidbey (4-7 Cascade Conference; 4-8-1 overall) responded with a high kick into the left corner by senior Lindsey Grimm.

Haley Marx scored with low shot into the right corner past Greene’s dive, and Falcon junior Maia Sparkman tied the shootout with a high shot that sailed left of Wolf goalie McKayla Bailey.

Then Greene was money in the shootout. She tracked Wolf senior Madison Tisa-McPhee’s kick to her right and blocked the high shot. The Falcons took the overtime lead with a low shot by senior Jenna Kaik to the right corner. Another save by Greene, this one against senior Kelsey Miranda, sealed the Falcons’ victory.

“I was just looking at the ball and hoping it was coming to me,” Greene said. “When it did, I just blocked it.”

Coupeville’s offense flowed and caught South Whidbey’s defenders on their heels in regulation. The Wolves kicked things off with a shot on goal in the first minute. Nerves seemed to affect both teams, which struggled to effectively and cleanly pass the ball.

“Practices have been a little bit more relaxed. This late in the season, I leave it up to the girls to want to try,” said Falcon head coach Ben Rusch.

“I think later in the season, some people get a little lackadaisical.”

Coupeville’s fortunes brightened midway through the first half. Wolf freshman Jennifer Spark took a corner kick and dropped it in front of the Falcons’ goal. Makana Stone, also a freshman, chipped in the loose ball for a 1-0 lead in the 18th.

“That goal, I don’t know what happened,” Greene said. “I tried to get there as fast as possible, but didn’t. It was just a lucky goal.”

Suddenly, South Whidbey came to life with a few long shots. Falcon junior midfielder Maia Sparkman had a corner kick cleared by Marx.

Speed carried the Falcons in the second half. Paige Farmer, a senior forward, sprinted downfield after long kicks and through balls, chasing after missed clears by the Wolves. Eventually, all her tiring runs paid off, as did a new strategy to pressure Coupeville’s defense.

South Whidbey’s players were near the midfield or farther into Coupeville territory. Kaik, playing forward after starting the season as a defender, sent a long through toward the Wolves’ goal. Bailey left the goal and challenged for the ball, only to have Farmer beat her to the spot, move inside and chip in the tying score.

“Jenna and Paige just threw themselves at the ball to get it in,” Rusch said. “To Coupeville’s credit, they came ready to play.”

Tied at 1-1, Coupeville picked up its pace and switched to a pressure offense. The Wolves had their shots, including a one-on-one by Stone feet from the goal that was cleared by Falcon junior defender Katie Sibley and another cleared by Rodden.

“I was just trying to get to the ball first,” Rodden said. “I knew there was no way we could lose this game. We had to win.”

Late in regulation, Greene caught a point-blank shot on goal in a crowded box that kept the score tied and gave her team possession as time ran out.

In the first overtime period, five minutes of sudden death soccer, only Coupeville had a decent look at a goal. But, like so many of their previous attempts, Greene caught the shot. South Whidbey attempted one shot on goal in the second overtime, a long shot by sophomore forward Olivia Bolding that Bailey saved to go into a shootout.

More than two hours after the match began, it went into a shootout. And thankfully for the Falcons, they have quite a shield in Greene.

South Whidbey fell 3-0 to Lakewood (5-6 Cascade Conference; 5-7-1 overall) Thursday. The loss moved the Falcons farther from their goal of having a .500 win-loss record and winning one playoff match.

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