Evan Thompson / The Record — Oliver Lauritsen, a foreign exchange student from Denmark, recently joined South Whidbey’s boys soccer team this spring and will help the Falcons’ attack as a midfielder.

Avoiding injury bug, utilizing defense key to Falcon boys soccer’s success

Denmark native and foreign exchange student Oliver Lauritsen could have ended up in one of many corners of the world.

Countries such as Australia, Brazil and India were among the possible landing spots for the senior soccer player. But when he arrived on South Whidbey, he was pleased to see that the soccer culture was alive and well. Soccer is Denmark’s most prized sport.

“The program is really nice, definitely,” said Lauritsen, a senior midfielder. “It’s a really nice island, a lot of good people and a small school. I actually like that it’s a small school.”

Lauritsen has played soccer since he was three and also competed in year-round soccer clubs. He likes what he sees so far of the South Whidbey’s boys squad.

“I feel like we have a good offense, we have some good strikers and some good center-mids and wide players,” Lauritsen said. “I don’t think we need too much practice on that (offense), to be totally honest.”

If the injury bug doesn’t hit South Whidbey this season, head coach Emerson “Skip” Robbins has a good feeling that the Falcons will finish right near the top of the Cascade Conference. While turnout is smaller than previous years, Robbins is encouraged by players’ performances in the early goings of the season.

“I really like our chances because we’ve got some really solid players,” Robbins said.

The Falcons finished 9-8-1 overall and 6-5-3 in the Cascade Conference. They were shuttered from the class 1A state championships for the first time in two years following a 5-0 loss to the eventual state champions, Seattle Academy, in the 2016 Bi-District tournament. Senior forward/midfielder Max Cassée took comfort in the fact that the Falcons battled Seattle Academy to the very end and was not upset by last season’s outcome.

“I think we fought as hard as we could and accomplished what we could,”

Despite losing the playing ability of departed senior leaders in Lucas Lieberman and Lochlan Roberts, Robbins is confident that the team as a whole will be in good shape.

“You can’t replace a Lucas Lieberman, and Lochlan is a big loss,” Robbins said. “But, I think we’re much stronger overall.”

Robbins said he’s been encouraged by players like sophomore Graham Colar, a returning first-team all-conference midfielder, as well as Lauritsen and a handful of other varsity players. They’ll be tested thoroughly this season, Robbins said.

Robbins said that the days of guaranteed wins over struggling programs in the league are over. The competition gap between the Falcons and teams rising in prominence, such as Sultan and Granite Falls, has shrunk, Robbins said. Among the toughest in the league is Archbishop Murphy, the returning state champions in class 2A. Robbins has long believed that the private Catholic school has no place competing in the Cascade Conference because of a poor competitive balance between the Wildcats and the rest of the league.

Robbins said on the flip side, it will be a good challenge for the Falcons to see how they compete against one of the state’s best teams.

“It’s going to take hard work and just a little bit of luck to stay healthy,” Robbins said. “But, I like our starting squad, I really do.”

The Falcons focused on defense during the preseason because “defense wins championships,” according to junior defender Lake Smith.

“We have a few weapons,” Smith said. “I think our defense is going to be a strong point.”

The Falcons are 1-1-1 overall in three games this season. The Falcons played their first league match against Archbishop Murphy on Tuesday night after The Record’s deadline. South Whidbey hosts Cedar Park Christian at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 27 at Waterman’s Field.