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Falcon soccer weathers the storm
Talk about weathering a storm.
South Whidbey’s boys soccer team survived a back-and-forth battle with King’s through strong winds and heavy rain with a late goal Tuesday night.
After both teams failed to find the back of the net, South Whidbey junior Kai da Rosa took a cross from junior Andy Zisette in the King’s goal box. His first shot was stymied by two King’s defenders. In the scrum, they fell in the slick field and da Rosa pressed on seeing only an open goal in front of him.
“In the box, it was just a scramble and I was the one who wanted it the most,” said da Rosa, who scored his first varsity goal in stoppage time against King’s.
The boisterous South Whidbey fans that braved the downpour erupted in cheers after seeing the goal that lifted the Falcons 1-0 over the Knights.
“That’s what I live for as a striker, hearing that roar from the stands,” da Rosa said. “Knowing that I have support from my teammates makes it even better.”
Winning the game was important for South Whidbey’s playoff position. The Falcons, as one of the three 1A teams in the Cascade Conference, need to finish in the top two to advance to the 1A District 1 playoffs. Beating King’s in the first conference game of the season put South Whidbey in position to be the first-place 1A team.
Play from both teams was, at times, brutal. The field was soaked and the ball was wet, making precision passing difficult. But where the finesse of the game was limited by the weather and field conditions, the players’ willingness to slide for the ball and bump into one another for possession seemed to come and go with the weather.
“I think it was attributed to the field and the rain, a lot of weather factors,” said Falcon senior Jaidin Jones of the field play. “We picked it up in the second half and kept our composure.”
South Whidbey’s offense played in flurries of shots on goal while King’s controlled the ball in terms of time of possession. Early in the game, Falcon junior goalie Charlie Stelling made a pair of saves by punching out high shots on the goal, including an athletic leap to save a lofted shot in the sixth minute.
Perhaps no save was more important than one made by junior Bryce Auburn. A long through-ball appeared to be readily handled by Stelling, but he slipped and the ball tumbled along toward an open South Whidbey goal. But Auburn sprinted into the play and was able to boot the ball out of bounds.
Play was stopped for about five minutes at the start of the second half, with the game still scoreless, as a gust sent the King’s canopy tent onto the field.
From there, South Whidbey seemed to have the King’s offense handled, as the Falcons only allowed a pair of shots in the second half. During a quick transition run by the Falcons, Jones had a look at the goal inside the box, but his spin-around kick was blocked by the Knights’ keeper.
“We try and keep high defense, even when we’re on offense,” Jones said. “If the ball gets shot, we know they’re looking for that guy to pass it to.”
A few minutes later, during the extended stoppage time, South Whidbey’s offense stopped King’s transition with Zisette taking the ball down the right sideline. He sent the ball in front of the King’s goalie box to da Rosa, who was met by a pair of defenders that stopped his first shot. But they fell, and da Rosa hopped over them and shot again for the open goal.
“I had just gotten taken out and was getting ready to be put back in and my coach said to me, ‘Kai, eye of the tiger,’ ” da Rosa said. “And that just really went to my head. I tried to do everything I could and make coach proud.”
South Whidbey used that momentum in two more games this week. On Wednesday, the Falcons defeated the Overlake Owls in Redmond 3-1 in a non-league match. Zisette scored on an assist from da Rosa. Jeff Meier scored a pair of goals on assists from Kameron Donohoe and Lochlan Roberts.
Playoff stakes remained high Friday as South Whidbey faced the other 1A Cascade Conference team and its island rival, Coupeville.