With a trip to the state 1A boys soccer championship on the line Saturday, South Whidbey senior Jeff Meier scored a penalty kick and an overtime goal to secure the Falcons’ spot.
The two scores were a bit of redemption for Meier, who missed a penalty kick during the 1A District 1 championship match against King’s the week prior.
“When you take a penalty kick you’ve gotta be loose,” Meier said Monday during a rare non-practice afternoon.
When he stepped to the line to take the kick 12 yards from the goal, he said he thought about his missed shot against King’s, and the lost chance at an automatic state berth then and there.
Another shot presented itself to him with his team trailing 1-0 in regulation. This time, relying on a shot he said he practiced hundreds of times, he wouldn’t miss.
“We were going to leave everything on that field no matter what,” Meier said.
His shot sailed into the net for the tying score in the second half with about 25 minutes remaining. The rest of the way, a formation change and some player rotation ensured that the Falcons wrested possession away from the Pumas.
But it was far from over, and Falcon senior goalie Charley Stelling needed to make a diving, one-handed save to keep the score tied.
“Any coach who tells you they’re not nervous is either dispassionate or lying,” Falcon co-head coach Emerson “Skip” Robbins said. “Of course I was nervous, but I was confident.”
Midway in the five-minute overtime period, Meier threw in the ball near the University Prep goal. It crossed in front of the goal to Falcon senior Oliver Saunsaucie, playing with an injured foot, who passed it back across the goalie box to Meier who headed it over the defenders for the game-winning goal.
“I was very surprised because both of their center backs are very tall, and I’m short,” Meier said. “It was euphoric. I was trying to run away from Kai [da Rosa]. He tackled me.”
The golden goal secured South Whidbey’s second consecutive trip to the state 1A boys soccer tournament, a destination that seemed all but certain at the start of the season and through the Cascade Conference matches, but was nearly lost after falling to King’s in the District 1 title match.
“I told him this, ‘I’m really proud of you for not being afraid to fail. For having the courage to miss, for not letting the fear of missing keep him from kicking,’ ” Robbins said of Meier, the team’s leading scorer who tied the school’s single-season record with 24 goals.
Like all stories of victory, South Whidbey’s winner-to-state, loser-out contest against University Prep came at a cost. The Falcons suffered a series of injuries; it’s unclear how most will affect four players heading into their first-round match against White Salmon on Wednesday, May 20.
“The ref didn’t throw one yellow card,” Falcon co-head coach Emerson “Skip” Robbins said in a phone interview Monday. “There maybe should have been 10 thrown.”
“They weren’t a dirty team, they were just super physical,” Robbins said of University Prep, adding that his team committed fouls deserving of official warnings just as much as the opponent. “They weren’t malicious fouls.”
South Whidbey travels south to White Salmon at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 20. The state tournament is single elimination, meaning the loser is out of the race.