Following a 6-0 win over Sultan on Saturday, South Whidbey girls soccer is in line to end a three-year playoff drought.
Hosting the first round of the class 1A District 1 playoffs is also within the Falcons’ reach.
The victory, the Falcons’ first in the Cascade Conference this season, gives South Whidbey (3-6-1 overall, 1-4-1 in league) a far better shot at playing in the postseason; Sultan is one of four other 1A teams in the league, and the top three 1A teams earn berths to the playoffs.
“We really needed to win this game for the playoffs,” sophomore Karyna Hezel said.
King’s (5-5-0; 4-2-0) has a firm hold on the top spot, having beaten all of the 1A teams in the league, but the other two spots are still up for grabs. If the Falcons can beat Cedar Park Christian, the fourth and final 1A team, at home on Oct. 10, it will secure the second seed. The second seed automatically hosts the third-seeded team from the Northwest Conference.
Head coach Terry Swanson said advancing to the playoffs has been the goal all along.
“We needed this, of course,” Swanson said. “Now it puts us a step closer to the playoffs, which has been our goal. We want to play in November.”
Swanson was optimistic entering the match that the Falcons could pull off the victory, but said games can often take wild turns for better or worse. While the Falcons had been shutout in five of their 10 previous matches this season, a shortage of offense was the least of their problems against Sultan. Sophomore Allison Papritz led South Whidbey with three goals, while sophomore Karyna Hezel, junior Maddy Drye and freshman Raven Winter also contributed scores.
Swanson credited Papritz for igniting the Falcon offense early on in the match and giving the players the confidence they needed to play without reservation.
“It helped a lot,” Swanson said. “That first goal uncorked everything and all of the girls are feeding off it. Once you get that goal, then you start playing high, you start playing intense defense and you’re not tentative.”
The Falcons’ three other goals came relatively late in the second half. Hezel’s score came in the 74th minute after she fielded a pass from a teammate and netted it from the right side of the pitch. Several of the other goals were also scored with the help of assists from teammates.
“I think our passes were really good ,” Hezel said. “And we had a lot more shots too.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Nicole Helseth, who was hardly challenged on Saturday, said the win boosted the Falcons’ morale and confidence. She added that the victory was extra sweet, considering the Falcons entered the match with three consecutive losses.
“It’s great to beat Sultan,” Helseth said.
“I think we’re coming really far as a team and building a lot more confidence,” Hezel added.
Swanson said a majority of the team is banged up with injuries and are playing through pain. South Whidbey is already without two key cogs in its defense, senior Emma Barker and sophomore Lila McCleary, but Swanson is hopeful that both could return to the field before the end of the season.