Playing in the snow was a fun enough experience for South Whidbey Reign’s girls U-14 soccer club. But winning the North Puget Sound League Division 2 Championship was the real prize for the select soccer team.
The Reign played through snow and temperatures below 30 degrees to claim the league championship after beating NSC Impact 3-0 on Saturday morning at South Whidbey High School.
The team finished the regular season undefeated with eight wins and four ties. Saturday’s game was a must-win for the South Whidbey to finish first; South Whidbey’s 28 points narrowly edged out the second place finisher in Seattle United South Blue, which had 26 points.
South Whidbey will play at home on Jan. 8 in the first round of the Washington Youth Soccer Presidents Cup.
The Reign largely dominated Saturday’s contest and pressured NSC Impact’s defense with shots on goal throughout the first and second half. NSC Impact seldom reached the Reign’s half of the field, and even when it did, South Whidbey’s defense turned it on its heels.
“I think a lot of the girls had a desire to finish the season strong,” said co-head coach Karl Peterson.
“We’re all really dedicated. It all paid off,” added goalkeeper Ruby Bond.
Three different players scored for the Reign. Center midfielder Kelly Murnane kicked things off by converting a penalty kick in the 10th minute to give the Reign their first goal. Just five minutes later, striker Simone White scored South Whidbey’s second goal after carrying the ball down the left side of the field and shooting it beyond the reach of the goalie near the left goal post.
Midfielder Leniece Gonzales scored the Reign’s third goal after a crossing pass by White.
Centerback Ashton Helseth said the reward of the championship was even sweeter considering how far the team has come since the beginning of the season.
“I think that we’ve improved so much,” Helseth said. “From the start, we weren’t really working together as a unit. Now, we’ve won and it feels amazing.”
“We had some ups and downs, but overall I think we played as a phenomenal team,” Helseth added.
Helseth said the big difference came from players on defense, at midfield and at forward working together as a unit. Communication also played a factor, she said.
“We shielded when we need to and we definitely communicated,” Helseth said.
White thought the team’s cohesion could be attributed to the amount of time the team has played together.
“We’ve known each other for at least five years and we’ve played soccer together,” White said.
For Peterson and co-head coach Terry Swanson, Saturday was much more than just a win and league championship. It was also about the building of a girls soccer program.
“We’re trying to get girls competitive soccer back,” Swanson said. “There has not been competitive soccer for seven years.”
In addition to the U-14 team, there is also a U-16 team, Swanson said. The goal is to provide South Whidbey girls soccer players with an opportunity to play competitively without having to travel off-island and pay up to $3,000 or $4,000, Swanson said.
Peterson said that the team’s accomplishment could even rub off on the young players too.
“If the younger girls can see that success, it makes them more excited to join in,” Peterson said.