A late save by goalie Charley Stelling and an even later goal by Lucas Leiberman preserved and cushioned South Whidbey’s boys soccer 2-0 win over King’s on Friday night.
Playing with a narrow 1-0 lead, South Whidbey saw momentum swing King’s way late as the Knights charged on offense for a series of shots on goal. Leiberman’s score in minute 75 gave South Whidbey room to breathe as time expired.
“It was a nail biter the whole game,” Leiberman said. “To have that confirmation that we put it away right there was a good feeling.”
Rebounding from the first loss of the season to Archbishop Murphy on Tuesday, the Falcons opened as the aggressors. With a wet field from consistent rainfall before and during the match, play was marred by misfires early as both teams felt their way through the slick grass.
South Whidbey got on the scoreboard with a goal in the ninth minute. Falcon senior Andy Zisette crossed the ball from the right sideline into the goalie box, where senior striker Kai da Rosa booted in the ball.
As it had in most of its previous matches, South Whidbey’s offense rattled off a slew of shots. But most were just off the mark, including a series by the normally sure-footed senior Jeff Meier, who has seven goals this season. Both teams played the next 64 minutes scoreless.
“We need to work on finishing,” Leiberman said. “We need to finish the chances that we get.”
King’s junior keeper Jake Arnold was kept on his toes through the first half. South Whidbey tallied six shots through the first 40 minutes. A couple of the Knights’ close calls were cleared and caught by Stelling, who was mostly kept inactive in previous matches as South Whidbey’s offense dominated midfield.
He saw plenty of action Friday night. Stelling, a senior, deflected a near point-blank shot on goal by King’s senior Svenn Helleren in the 69th minute to preserve the shutout. Helleren charged down the left sideline, beat two Falcon defenders and was looking at nothing but open field between himself and Stelling. Helleren dribbled into the box and shot, only to have the ball blocked by Stelling’s lunging foot.
“I was a little worried,” Stelling said. “We teach our defense to stay in front of them. He got through and my first reaction is to just send my foot out there. It was a good shot.”
“Right when anyone’s close, up in my grill, I’m ready to go,” he added.
King’s senior Jase Fransen tried a 30-yard blast that sailed high and headed toward South Whidbey’s net, but Stelling leaped and caught it to end the Knights’ salvo.
Leiberman, a junior, got South Whidbey’s security score. Out of a scrum near the 18-yard mark, Leiberman tapped the ball out to his left and rocketed it into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead South Whidbey held the rest of the way.
“I just kept going at it,” Leiberman said. “I didn’t get off the first touch. I keep going.”
Shortly after the goal, a short pushing match ensued between a handful of Falcon and Knight players before quickly being reined in by the referees. Leiberman, who was initially at the center of the exchange after being tackled to the turf, said it was the result of two 1A Cascade Conference foes going head-to-head.
“It’s just a heated rivalry,” he said.