Maybe it was first-game jitters that sunk South Whidbey boys soccer to a 0-2 deficit against University Prep.
For how much nervousness and rust the Falcons had to work out, their experience and a surprise first-year varsity sophomore pulled through for a 2-2 draw Monday.
“They’re a really good team, without a doubt,” said Falcon head coach Joel Gerlach.
“If we play them again, I think we have them figured out.”
On the road for its first match, South Whidbey needed almost every minute of the 80-minute match. By halftime, University Prep led 1-0 and was up 2-0 by the 60-minute mark.
“Instead of getting discouraged, they rallied,” Gerlach said of his Falcons.
Both of South Whidbey’s came in the final 14 minutes. Gerlach made a roster adjustment and put in a third forward in place of a midfielder. The added offensive pressure broke through University Prep’s defense for a pair of late-game goals. Sophomore Falcon forward Bryce Auburn scored the first and senior Trey Adams booted in the second.
“They were really hustling and working hard,” Gerlach said. “And eventually for Bryce it paid off and he got a goal.”
On defense, a couple of near-saves cost South Whidbey. Andrew Holt, the Falcons’ senior goalie, deflected the ball but University Prep’s Blaine Thompson followed through for the chip in score. Thompson scored the second goal for University Prep on a cross to the back post.
Gerlach praised first-year varsity defender Jack Hood as a stalwart addition to the defensive backs. Other than Hood and Auburn, Gerlach said he shifted the roster to evaluate different combinations of players before South Whidbey begins Cascade Conference games next week.
“We definitely were trying some things out,” he said.
“On varsity it’s a pretty even squad.”
In earlier action March 9, South Whidbey took a short trip north to Coupeville for exhibition games at a jamboree. Playing shortened 20-minute periods, the Falcons saw a variety of teams from 4A Lake Stevens to its rival Coupeville, a fellow 1A school. Both games ended in draws, 0-0 against Lake Stevens and 1-1 against Coupeville. Auburn scored the lone goal for South Whidbey against Coupeville.
Holding Lake Stevens, a 4A school that made the state 4A quarterfinals last year, scoreless was a powerful season starter.
“That’s a one-up for the team knowing that they played a 4A team that couldn’t score a goal against us,” Gerlach said.
Only finishing in a tie against Coupeville did not overly concern Gerlach, despite the importance of the local rivalry to South Whidbey’s 1A playoff hopes. None of the varsity Falcons have swept the Wolves in regular season play in their high school careers.
“I’m feeling much better about playing them this year than I was last year,” Gerlach said.