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South Whidbey boys soccer moves into first place with win over Archbishop Murphy
LANGLEY — On the strength of its 1-0 shutout of Archbishop Murphy on Tuesday, the South Whidbey soccer team now leads the Cascade Conference.
Yes, you read that right — the Falcons are at the top of the standings.
South Whidbey is now 5-2 in the league and 5-3 overall, while Murphy is 4-2 and 4-4.
“Well, it feels good to come off a win against Murphy,” said Falcon coach Joel Gerlach. “It’s one of those things a coach dreams about.”
Noah Moeller, a sophomore forward for the Falcons, kicked in the winning goal of the game in the 50th minute.
“Someone passed me the ball, I’m not sure who, and I got past the last defender,” Moeller recalled. “It hit the goalkeeper, bounced back out and I slammed it home about 10 yards.”
Falcon goalie TJ Russell and key defenders Dean Freundlich, Ben Covelli, Eli Berendt and Henry Mead combined to keep the Wildcats at bay.
“I’m proud of these guys out there playing fantastic soccer; as a team they get along great,” Gerlach said. “We knew it was going to be a tough match, but they were determined to win. And TJ was just phenomenal in making some great saves.”
Russell posted 16 saves in goal and the South Whidbey defense helped maintain the lead for the final minutes.
The Wildcats had a chance late in the game to tie it up, but fell short when Russell caused the ball to veer off to the side, strike the post and bop off the far upright.
“We only scored the one goal, and we had to hold them off and maintain that goal for 30 minutes,” Gerlach noted. “We knew it was a fairly even match from the beginning.”
Midfielder Eli Berendt felt the Falcons had the edge when he noticed that his teammates were taking possession of most of the 50/50 balls.
“Whoever gets the ball first off a header or kick-back has the chance to score or at least keep control,” he said. “We basically just outplayed them, didn’t give them any room to make something happen.”
The man on the other end of midfield for South Whidbey, Kevin Rookstool, said that passing was exceptionally fine on the day.
“And our communication has improved a lot over last year,” he said. “We talk a lot out there, and that helps us be aware of what’s happening and let’s us seize opportunities faster. And we can’t say enough about TJ; he was awesome.”
Both seniors were on last year’s team that ended its season with a dismal 6-10 league record, primarily due to a host of unforeseen injuries and health problems.
“The positive attitude from every player has made a huge difference this year,” Rookstool said.
“There was just more energy on the field, from the very first practice,” he said. “Last year, there wasn’t a very good vibe, and that showed up in defeats.”
Gerlach said that, as good as players such as Russell, Moeller, Pat Myatt, Freundlich and Mead are, there are no superstars.
“The chemistry is there, there’s 11 outstanding guys and that’s what will win more games for us,” the coach said.
South Whidbey isn’t the only island team on a roll. The same day, Coupeville (4-3) beat Cedarcrest (4-3) by a single goal, 1-0, for the first time ever.
Then on Thursday, the Falcons in turn were upset by Coupeville 2-0.
“We clearly outplayed them,” Gerlach said. “We just couldn’t score, and I have to credit their goalie Evan Pullman, who did a great job for his team.”