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Falcon soccer leaders eye state playoffs, must avoid early let down | SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Falcon senior Darby Hayes tracks the ball during cross drills. He’s one of several Falcons expected to fill the scoring void left by the graduation of two players.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Falcon senior Darby Hayes tracks the ball during cross drills. He’s one of several Falcons expected to fill the scoring void left by the graduation of two players.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Smiling with hair dripping wet from a two-hour practice in the rain, Cameron Coupe’s expectation of the Falcon boys soccer team was clear.

“We’re going for state this year,” said Coupe, a senior co-captain.

The boys soccer team qualified for the 2A District 1 playoffs the past few seasons. But breaking through the first rounds and into the state-qualifying matches eluded South Whidbey. This year, the corps of seniors say, is their year. And that goal, which is unstated by the coaches, comes with knock against it.

“A state game is definitely in the heads of everyone on the team,” said senior co-captain Connor McCauley.

“If we build it up in our heads, then it becomes even more of a letdown.”

None of the boys teams at South Whidbey made as long of a run in the playoff as soccer. It may not draw the fanbase that Falcon football can, but it’s quickly becoming the premiere sport of South Whidbey.

A corps of seniors — Darby Hayes, Sam Turpin, Andrew Holt, Guy Sparkman, Coupe and McCauley — could be the veteran experience that tips the Falcons into the state tournament. Even when there’s a bad pass during a crossing drill in a downpour, the guys smile. They laugh. They joke. And they keep kicking, trying to master a corner cross to slip the ball by Holt, the team’s starting keeper.

“I’m really confident with how we look so far that we’re going to have a very successful season,” Coupe said.

“Everyone’s having a good time out here, which is even better because when practice attitude is up and keeping competitive, it really adds to our team and what we’re building on.”

Success was measured by the team’s ability to make the district playoffs — not necessarily in win margin. The only over-.500 season South Whidbey posted since 2009 was last year. The Falcons finished 8-6 against Cascade Conference teams and 10-8 overall in 2012; 9-9 overall in 2011; and 7-9 overall in 2010.

Those years, the teams that showed so much promise at the start would lose games they assumed were in the net. Once those Falcons stepped on the field, that proved to be more challenging than just showing up.

“The games we have to focus on are the easy ones,” McCauley said. “We can’t let any of the simple games slip.”

As a class 1A program, South Whidbey only needs to worry about how it fares against King’s and Coupeville. The latter has given its island rival fits the past few years. In McCauley’s four-year varsity career, he only has one victory against Coupeville.

“You can never underestimate Coupeville when it comes to (our) games with them,” Coupe said.

Defense should anchor South Whidbey this season. Four of its starters last season returned, including Holt at goalie, Coupe at center-back, junior Calvin Shimada and junior River Ellis.

The main question for the Falcons is scoring. Last year’s two leading scorers graduated, leaving South Whidbey with a void at forward. Seniors like Stephen Lyons and Darby Hayes are expected to fill those roles and score goals.

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