Play in November: that’s been the goal for South Whidbey girls soccer all season. That’s because suiting up at this time of year means the Falcons reached the playoffs.
The Falcons are still alive in the postseason.
South Whidbey is just one win away from qualifying for state after beating University Prep 3-1 in the first round of the class 1A Bi-District tournament on Oct. 31 at Sultan High School. Lynden Christian beat the Falcons 2-0 in the semifinals on Thursday night, but they have one more opportunity to earn a state berth when they play Meridian in a loser-out elimination game on Saturday.
“We have our mind on playing in November,” senior Mikayla Hezel said. “That’s been our goal all season long, to play in November. That’s what we did. Everyone was on their game, from the goalie to the striker. ”
The Falcons (8-11-1 overall) reached the state-qualifying tournament after placing fourth in the 1A District 1 tournament on Oct. 23-28 with two wins and one loss. The bulk of South Whidbey’s squad is mostly freshmen and sophomores, yet they’ve won despite being on the fringe of elimination. Senior Mikayla Hezel considers herself lucky to be on a team that’s reached as far as it has in the postseason.
“It’s incredible,” Hezel said. “We’ve just come so far from the summer to now. You can see the growth in each game. Each game we’re getting better.”
“It’s just awesome and such a good feeling. Everyone is so positive and it’s a well-deserved goal that we’ve reached as a team,” she added.
South Whidbey beat Nooksack Valley 5-1 in the program’s first home playoff game in years on Oct. 23. The Falcons dropped their next game to Lynden Christian 3-1, but bounced back with a 6-1 victory over Cedar Park Christian to advance to the bi-district tournament.
Hezel said the Falcons played the best they have all season against University Prep, a Seattle-based team from the Emerald City League, in the first round.
“Everyone just has their role and they just play it and exceed it so well,” Hezel said. “We played completely as a unit.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Helseth said the team has played well despite its youth because of the Falcons’ experience in select league soccer. Many of them played for South Whidbey Reign, a successful select soccer program; the U-14 team finished second in the Washington Youth Soccer Founders Cup in February.
“There’s a whole bunch of these people who are doing select,” Helseth said. “The select team has definitely benefited us.”
Freshmen Kelly Murnane could hardly believe the success the Falcons have had this postseason.
“It’s kind of mind blowing,” Murnane said. “We’re kind of the underdogs.”
“I didn’t think we we’re going to make it, so I’m just so impressed,” she added.
Sophomore Mallory Drye added that they’ve earned their spot in the postseason by their play and effort.
“I guess it just shows that hard work pays off,” Drye said. “We’ve all wanted this for a long time, especially (Falcon head coach) Terry (Swanson), so I feel like we just worked really hard.”