It was one of the best matches South Whidbey girl’s soccer team had played all season, yet the end result was a 3-0 loss to Cedarcrest on Sept. 28.
What gives? The answers — there are several of them — lie in the details.
“We played very well,” said Carmen Colar, a senior. “I think everyone was just playing very physical. We didn’t come out flat, we all came out full of energy. We wanted to play.”
“Teams like King’s, Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest, we’re holding them to three or four goals,” she added.
The Falcons successfully caught the Red Wolves off guard and played a contested first half, allowing only one goal in the 25th minute. The two teams were like a seesaw for the first 40 minutes, though the Red Wolves were slightly more dominant.
The Falcons had around a half-dozen attempts on goals, while the Red Wolves had twice that with one that was converted. South Whidbey’s defense also stood toe-to-toe with Cedarcrest, head coach Brian McCleary said.
“I think the first half was great, the way they just applied pressure and hung in there and made them work,” McCleary said. “They got a little tired there in the second half. I thought that was really good how they stayed with them and played with them.”
The Falcons (2-7-1 overall, 1-5-0 in the Cascade Conference) are currently on the hunt for a spot in a district postseason match. They’ll contend with both Sultan (1-6-1 overall, 1-5-1 in league) and Cedar Park Christian (3-7-0 overall, 2-4-0 in league) for two berths.
King’s has a secure hold on first place.
While South Whidbey lost to Sultan 3-1 on Saturday, head coach Brian McCleary is confident they can give the Turks a run for their money when they play the Falcons at home at 6 p.m. on Oct. 15. South Whidbey dominated the number of possessions as well as shots on goal. McCleary said the Falcons outshot the Turks 18-8, and that Sultan had a good goal keeper.
“Seventy-five percent of our shots seemed like they went straight to the keepers’ hands, but that’s often the sign of a good keeper,” McCleary said. “That was really frustrating.”
“We could have easily won 6-3, but it was one of those games where our defensive boo-boos led to three breakaway goals and they converted every one of them.”
Adding to the pressure, the team lost one of its most aggressive players — Emma Barker — to a season-ending injury sustained in Saturday’s match. Barker’s injury was also a distraction for players during the match, who cared for her well-being, Colar said. Colar and junior Mikayla Hezel expect a different result on Oct. 15.
“The way we left the field at Sultan on Saturday, it’s going to be a totally different vibe when we play them Saturday [Oct. 15],” Hezel said. “We want to win that game so badly and we have the capability to. We have to lay it all out on the line.”
Hezel said the Falcons are more aggressive as a unit this year. The result has been fewer goals scored on South Whidbey by top-tier teams in the league. Even if the Falcons don’t score in the match, it is still a sign that South Whidbey is growing, Hezel said.
“If we hold them to a certain number then that means we’re improving,” Hezel said.
Though the Falcons will face tough challenges against its next two opponents — Archbishop Murphy on Oct. 4 and King’s on Oct. 6 — South Whidbey hopes to continue working toward its goal of clinching a postseason berth.
“That Sultan game definitely left us with some fire under our butts,” Colar said.
Though it was a question mark coming into the season, McCleary is pleased with the play of the Falcons’ underclassmen starters. Like Hezel, he too is noticing the Falcons are playing more aggressively.
“I think they recognize they have to play a lot faster,” McCleary said. “We get exposed when we hesitate and have successes when we don’t. Their understanding about the physical nature is pretty solid,” he added.
Colar and Hezel are among the few seasoned veterans on the Falcon roster. The rest is made up of freshmen and sophomores, some of whom are playing their first year on varsity.
Despite their relative youth, the Falcons, such as freshmen Ashley Ricketts, Mallory Drye and Karyna Hezel, did not back down from the Red Wolves, Hezel and Colar said. The trait will bode well for the future, Colar said.
“It’s very promising,” Colar said. “Because you know when they’re seniors, they’re just going to destroy. It’s really cool to see them kinda stepping up and coming together as a team and playing really well.”
The players also disagreed with a referee’s decision on one of the Red Wolves two goals in the second half.
“If you consider it 2-0, we did play very well the whole game,” Colar said. “We’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. We left it all out on the field.”