It was the pass South Whidbey senior soccer player Zoe Tapert has been waiting for all season.
With senior Kendra Warwick running down the center of the field and Tapert, on Warwick’s left, breaking free from the Cedarcrest defenders guarding her, it was the perfect opportunity for the Falcons to catch the Red Wolves on Senior Night, Oct. 19.
Warwick and Tapert made eye contact before Warwick sent a pass across the field and in front of Tapert.
Tapert slid to make contact with the ball with the Red Wolves goalkeeper in contention. The ball flew right and out of the goalie’s reach and into the net to tie the match in the sixth minute.
They couldn’t have drawn the play up any better, the two players said.
“That was awesome,” Tapert said. “It was just so perfect, too. The slide right into it, the goalie coming out and missing it entirely.”
“I don’t know, it was just meant to be,” she added.
That was the lone Falcon goal of the game, as Cedarcrest defeated South Whidbey on its final home match of the season, 7-1. But Tapert and Warwick said they weren’t discouraged by the outcome, though they would have liked to have seen a different one.
“Really bittersweet,” Warwick said of her reaction to the match. “I wanted to come off with a win. But we worked hard and that’s all I can really ask for.”
Tapert’s goal capped a wild week for the senior. Tapert was crowned Homecoming Queen during the South Whidbey homecoming football game Oct. 16.
The Falcons highlighted the fact that the team’s cohesion was much improved from seasons past, as well as the amount of fun they had. They also noted that their objective was to improve every week and play better the second time when facing Cascade Conference opponents. They did just that Monday night by scoring a goal, being shut out in their previous Cedarcrest encounter.
South Whidbey narrowly missed a chance to prevent a lower scoring total than its previous bout with Cedarcrest, but the Red Wolves scored their final goal of the match in the 77th minute.
“We’ve been improving every single time we play a team for the second time,” Warwick said. “We want to play better. This time we actually got a goal on them, so we’re already playing better.”
The Falcons’ biggest catalyst this year has been maintaining their level of play through the entirety of the match, first-year head coach Brian McCleary said. After allowing a goal to Red Wolves’ midfielder Sydney Kuehn in the opening minute of the match, the Falcons quickly responded with Tapert’s goal.
“You’re pushing it at the other end and it’s kind of fun to see the other team panic a little bit,” McCleary said. “They get that goal back so quickly and I thought it just gave them a ton of confidence, and sometimes that’s all it takes.”
But the Falcons were unable to keep up the intensity, as they allowed three additional first-half goals in the 17th, 18th, and 37th minutes.
In the second half, they gave up goals in the 58th, 60th, and 77th minutes.
“In the end, you have to have enough subs and be in good enough condition to hang in there the whole game,” McCleary said of his team’s small roster.
As it is McCleary’s first year with the Falcons, he said this year’s seniors — Tapert, Warwick, Sanna Bjork, Allie VanBenschoten, Anne Lux, Nicole Leggett, and Cassie Neil — will always be special to him. Junior Leah Rostov, who is involved in the college credit program Running Start, will also graduate this spring.
“It’s one of those things where I learned a lot this season and we all kind of got to know each other, so there’s just a lot of bonding there, at least with me,” McCleary said. “I’ll always remember them because they’re my first team in high school, so they’re really special to me in that way that no other South Whidbey team can replace. That’s what I’ll miss the most.”
Tapert said she will miss playing on her home field, but reminded herself that she’ll be back out to compete when spring sports roll around.
“It’s sad because this is going to be my last game ever playing on this field,” Tapert said. “But then I’ve got to think, ‘Well, I’ll be here for track.’ I’m going to miss the soccer team.”
The Falcons lost to Lakewood, 3-1, in their final match of the season on Oct. 22.
South Whidbey finished with two wins, 13 losses, and one tie, and will not advance to the playoffs.