Despite knowing a loss was all but certain while trailing Klahowya 4-0 in the class 1A state championships, South Whidbey girls soccer kept fighting.
Sophomore forward Karyna Hezel scored the Falcons’ lone goal from an assist by sophomore forward Allison Paprtiz with just 10 seconds left in the match. Though the Falcons’ season ended after the 4-1 loss, players and coaches were thrilled to have competed at state for the first time in 13 years.
“Making it to state was obviously an accomplishment,” senior midfielder Mikayla Hezel said. “The intensity was just so high and we handled it so well for being a team that’s never made it in 13 years.”
“Even though the score wasn’t what we wanted it to be, I was no disappointed by it. It was such a good way to end my senior year. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” she added.
The Falcons (9-13-1 overall) made a fairly significant turnaround from previous years. The Falcons were winless in 2014, and won just four games in 2015 and 2016.
South Whidbey finished second in the 1A division of the Cascade Conference in 2017 and earned a berth to the district and bi-district playoffs for the first time in three years. South Whidbey also doubled its combined wins over the past two years despite having only three upperclassmen – the rest were sophomores and freshmen. They even lost two starting defenders to injury early in the season, while other players fought through minor injuries to remain in playoff contention.
“Our team did not lose a single game all season that it should have won, and none of our wins were games that we should have lost,” head coach Terry Swanson said. “The players left everything on the field in every one our game. As a coach, I was most proud of the fact that our players and team improved over the duration of the season, a direct reflection of their hard work and dedication on the practice field.”
Sophomore Emily Vanberg said it was a thrilling experience joining the Falcon program and having to chance to take part in its success.
“I think it was really exciting to go to state because this was my first year playing soccer,” Vanberg said. “Being on varsity, you could just feel the intensity. It was good.”
Karyna Hezel, Mikayla’s younger sister, is optimistic about the future. She expects the Falcons will have a strong freshman class, which will include girls from the South Whidbey Reign U-14 soccer club that finished second in the Washington Youth Soccer Founders Cup in February 2017.
“I think we’re going to have a pretty strong team,” Karyna Hezel said.
Vanberg added that many of the Falcons will also play select soccer and train together throughout the offseason to come into the 2018 season as prepared as possible.