South Whidbey girls soccer secured its ticket to the postseason with a 9-3 victory over Cedar Park Christian on Tuesday night.
As if that isn’t sweet enough, the Falcons will likely host the first round of the class 1A District tournament on Oct. 23. South Whidbey (4-8-1 overall, 2-6-1 in the Cascade Conference) needs to beat Sultan in rematch on Oct. 14 to cement the second seed in the tournament, which will pit the Falcons against the third-best 1A team from the Northwest Conference; the Falcons beat Sultan 6-0 on Sept. 30.
The berth breaks a three-year playoff drought for the team.
“It was a really important match because we’ve solidified a place in the playoffs and probably home field,” head coach Terry Swanson said. “So we’ll have our first home field (playoff) game in 17 years.”
Sophomore forward Alison Papritz, who scored a career-high six goals against the Eagles on Tuesday night, said earning a trip to the playoffs was the primary goal for the season. Having accomplished it is a good feeling, she said.
“It’s definitely really exciting,” Papritz said. “Last year, we were trying so hard and didn’t make it. This year, it’s a little past halfway through and we’ve already got that spot. It’s cool because we can kind of enjoy the rest of the games and just know that we got that spot.”
Sophomore midfielder Sophia Olsson, a foreign exchange student from Sweden, also scored two goals in the contest. She said she’s looking forward to a chance to play in front of the home crowd again.
“We’ve gotten better every game,” Olsson said. “…It feels really good that we made it.
Papritz said one of the Falcons’ biggest strengths this season has been staying focused, even if they find themselves trailing. Despite the Eagles scoring an early goal on the Falcons, Papritz said the team kept their heads in the game, maintained their composure and managed to rack up a number of goals before the end of the first half.
It was a trait their opponents lacked.
“I think the girls are improving,” Swanson said. “They’re closing quickly, they’re doing what we’ve been working on. Once they got control of the game and we started scoring goals, the other team just naturally deflated.”
Papritz was also proud of her individual play.
“I think it definitely takes at least the first goal to get me going,” Papritz said. “I scored off a corner kick and then somehow I kept getting it past the last defender.”
There was good and bad news on the injury front with two of the Falcons’ key defenders. Senior defender Emma Barker will not appear in the playoffs after tearing her ACL midway through the season;the extent of her knee injury was only recently confirmed. But, sophomore Lila McCleary should be back in time for the first round of the tournament.
Swanson said that while it’s good that the only other senior on the team, forward Mikayla Hezel, will have a chance to play in the postseason for the first time in her career, it’s equally important for the younger players to get their feet wet. Swanson also added it’s a reminder of where the program is headed in terms of competitiveness.
“For the younger players, it shows them what direction we’re going,” Swanson said. “It all shows that what we’re practicing is working and we even take away from those losses.”