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Expectations set for state tournament title run | FALCON SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

Jeffrey Meier chases after the ball during a South Whidbey boys soccer practice.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Jeffrey Meier chases after the ball during a South Whidbey boys soccer practice.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Murmurs and whispers of playing in the state 1A boys soccer tournament became full-blown cheers for South Whidbey this season.

Normally coaches and players are quiet when they talk about their expectation to reach a state tournament or challenge for a championship. Not these Falcons, who changed one of their end-of-practice team cheers from “Falcons on three: one-two-three, Falcons!” to “State on three: one-two-three, state!”

“We’re setting our expectations high,” said junior defender Oliver Saunsaucie, sidelined early with an undiagnosed foot injury.

Last year, the South Whidbey Falcon boys soccer team suffered a bitter end to its season in the tri-district tournament. Cascade Christian knocked out South Whidbey in a shootout and eventually went on to the state tournament. Trey Adams, a senior forward and team captain, still remembers the loss. He said some of the returning varsity players talk about it, which reminds them to work harder and play smarter to avoid a similar fate.

“It was one of the most heartbreaking things ever,” said Adams, citing the loss in 2013, a penalty kick defeat to Bellingham in 2012 and the team’s fall to Squalicum in 2011. “I’m tired of having a bitter taste in my mouth after the playoffs.”

One reason for the Falcons’ confidence is a returning core with a history of winning. The junior varsity squad has been nearly perfect the past two seasons, and many of those players are on varsity this season. Then there’s their offseason exploits, which includes a U-17 state title with the South Whidbey Reign. Nearly every player on the Reign is a varsity Falcon.

Before South Whidbey even has a chance at qualifying for the state tournament, to be held May 30-31 in Sumner, the Falcons need to finish as a top-two team in the Cascade Conference among 1A teams. That means they’ll need to beat Coupeville and King’s, and the Whidbey Island rival has long tripped up South Whidbey. In past seasons, the Falcons have finished with winning records, but have lost games to less skilled teams which left the coaches and players perplexed.

Cedarcrest finished atop the Cascade Conference standings in 2013 with a 13-1 league record. South Whidbey cobbled together a 9-5 league record for third place and finished 11-7 overall.

Players like Adams and his senior teammates are forthright about their aspirations to shake up the conference standings with South Whidbey at the apex this season.

“We’re coming out on top,” said Adams, smiling wide.

With the season opener around the corner, South Whidbey’s top priority was defense. The Falcons had to replace all-conference spots across the pitch; perhaps none as important as a new goalie in lieu of tall, athletic keeper Andrew Holt who graduated last spring. South Whidbey figures to have the replacement in the smaller but no-less athletic Charlie Stelling, a junior. Around him will be some familiar faces, such as Saunsaucie and senior Jack Hood, a three-year varsity defender. Filling one defensive void is junior Anders Bergquist, who Adams said is a player to watch this season.

“He makes the right decision every time,” Adams said.

 

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