Steely nerves, positioning and a little luck combined for Falcon freshman Annie Lux to knock in a header that beat Granite Falls.
South Whidbey won its second double overtime match in three days on Saturday against the Granite Falls Tigers, 1-0.
Against the Tigers (4-3 Cascade Conference; 5-4 overall), the Falcons had to hold on in the regular time. Both teams’ defenses asserted themselves and kept each other’s midfielders and forwards away from the goal behind the stalwart play of Falcon senior goalie Ellie Greene and Tiger goalie Courtney Young.
A 0-0 score at the end of regulation forced a five-minute, sudden death overtime. With mostly even time of possession, Falcon head coach Ben Rusch said, the Falcons (3-4 Cascade Conference; 3-5-1 overall) and the Tigers couldn’t got a goal.
“Really, it was more of a real soccer match, back and forth,” Rusch said. “Teams attack and counter-attack, that’s how soccer is really played, not overcommitting.”
In the second overtime, Falcon junior midfielder Maia Sparkman – South Whidbey’s hero from Thursday – had one final play. The Falcons received a corner kick, but the ball had rolled down from Waterman Field as stoppage time began. Sparkman sprinted for the ball, back up the slope and placed the ball on the corner. Usually, Sparkman said she visualizes where she wants to kick the ball, takes a couple of deep, calming breaths and boots the ball. Not this time.
“I didn’t have any time for it,” Sparkman said.
Sparkman sent the corner kick to the far post of the Tigers’ goal. Lux cleanly headed it in behind Young, who was in front of the far pole, between Sparkman and the goal, with less than a minute left in overtime. The goal, Lux’s first of the year and Falcon career, won the match for South Whidbey and avoided a shootout.
“I don’t even know how it went to the back post, but I’m so glad someone was there to finish it,” Sparkman said.
South Whidbey’s players admitted they were mentally ready for a shootout. Their coach was ready and confident, too, because he had scouted the Tigers a week earlier during a match they lost in a shootout. In that match, the Tigers made two and missed two penalty kicks, which cost them the game. That doesn’t mean Rusch looked forward to the penalty kick possibility.
“Shootouts are always stressful,” Rusch said.