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Small girls soccer program hopes to stay healthy | FALCON FALL SPORTS PREVIEW
Wins are slowly adding to one another for the South Whidbey girls soccer team under third-year head coach Ben Rusch.
He and a trio of seniors have grand plans for the team this season, jumping from a sub-.500 squad to an over-.500 winner. Last year, the Falcons finished with a 5-9 league record, 5-11 overall. That means South Whidbey faces an uphill battle to get over the hump with at least three more wins in Cascade Conference play.
“We need to stick through the games, even the tough ones,” said senior midfielder Maia Sparkman.
“A lot of winning depends on a team’s focus and bonding.”
The latter, Sparkman says, is something the Falcons have covered to start the season. In the past, South Whidbey girls soccer dealt with personnel issues: players not getting along with one another, giving up on a game or quitting the team. Those problems are gone with a new, young team that features a host of sophomores and freshmen.
“Honestly, I think that we’ll be fine,” said senior outside midfielder Madi Boyd. “Everyone gets along better than any other teams I’ve been on at South Whidbey.”
In the 2012 season, South Whidbey finished in sixth place out of eight teams in the Cascade Conference. The three squads ahead of the Falcons in the league standings finished with a 7-7, 7-7 and an 8-6 record. If history repeats itself and South Whidbey can muster a .500 win record, that will put the Falcons in the mix for at least fifth place, if not higher.
At the bottom of the standings is South Whidbey’s geographical rival, Coupeville, which finished 1-13 and 1-16 overall. The two matches this season are bound to be gritty, as both squads will look to rebound from a 1-0 shootout game last season which South Whidbey won. Sparkman, for her part, wants to trounce Coupeville in the rematches this year.
“I want to get a solid win against Coupeville, a butt-whipping game,” she said.
The Falcons lost a cadre of seniors to graduation, including surprise standout goalkeeper Ellie Greene. Replacing her was a crucial decision for Rusch, and it appeared early in the year that junior Grace Stringer would take over in the box. Katie Sibley, one of the Falcons’ most veteran defenders, returned after nearly leaving Whidbey Island for her senior year. Her presence will help stabilize an experienced but young defense that also features returners Kendra Warwick and Anni Field, both sophomores.
Numbers were low this year for the girls soccer team, with a total of 28 players trying out. It was enough to field two teams, though with 11 players on the field at a time, that leaves a shallow bench for reserves and fresh legs. The weight of staying healthy and well-conditioned concerned the seniors, who know the importance of keeping girls on the field.
“It’s really stressful to not have a full team as a backup,” Sparkman said.
South Whidbey’s final home game, also the Falcons’ senior night, of the regular season will be against Granite Falls, which finished in third place last year. It’s a more promising prospect than facing top teams Archbishop Murphy, which had an undefeated conference season, and King’s, which went 12-2.