Fighting for their postseason lives, the South Whidbey boys soccer players made the most of their nine shots scoring three times to beat Charles Wright Academy 3-1 on Saturday.
The victory sent South Whidbey to the state 1A boys soccer tournament for the first time since the 2003 season, ending an 11-year absence.
In the 1A tri-district elimination match, South Whidbey followed its lingering habit of scoring early, then allowing the tying goal in the first half. The Tarriers’ lone score came on a penalty kick after a foul on Falcon senior Trey Adams inside the penalty area. Charley Stelling, South Whidbey’s junior goalie, blocked the first shot, but the deflection went back to the player who was able to knock it past Stelling.
“We all played 100 percent on Saturday,” Adams said. “It was our last chance.”
Midway through the second half, Falcon sophomore Lucas Leiberman scored off a deflected cross to lift South Whidbey 2-1. It was a defining moment in the match and the postseason for several players.
But the Falcons were in a similar situation two games prior. On May 13, South Whidbey led Cascade Christian 2-1, only to tie the game in the waning minutes, but eventually win in a shootout. Not this time. Falcon junior striker Kai da Rosa broke free from the defenders, took a pass from junior Andy Zisette and scored the third and final goal of the game.
“We knew we had it from there,” Adams said.
South Whidbey traveled to face the Brewster Bears on Tuesday after The Record went to press. Knowing that the four-hour bus ride could be his last, Adams said he was ready to extend the season — a message he has told his teammates before every postseason match. Ideally, South Whidbey would roll through its half of the bracket and have a rematch with King’s, the Cascade Conference rival that won the District 1 title over South Whidbey and clinched a top seed in the state tournament earlier this month.
“I want to get all the way to the championship game and beat the crap out of them,” Adams said.
Before the Falcons reached that match four games away, South Whidbey had to focus on Brewster. Zisette said he expected to play another physical team, similar to Mount Baker and Blaine, one that bumped and hit and drew penalties on the other team.
Because South Whidbey lost pivotal matches to King’s and to Blaine, the Falcons took a lower seeding, resulting in them having to travel for the first match against the Brewster Bears. Should South Whidbey win, it would host a game later this week.
“They’ll think we’re the underdogs,” Zisette said. “We’re not.”
The day before their loser-out state soccer tournament match, the Falcons ran through their normal drills. Corner kicks, one-on-one defending, crossing the ball into the 18-yard area — all hallmarks of South Whidbey soccer this season. Nerves or anxiety, if there were any, were not displayed by the Falcons as they laughed and sweated in the South Whidbey sun. Those feelings, Adams said, would come up silently on the long bus ride over. But once they stepped on the field, they would be ready.
“We want it more than anyone else,” he said.