Maddy Drye is the only returning senior on the South Whidbey soccer team this fall. (File photo)

Maddy Drye is the only returning senior on the South Whidbey soccer team this fall. (File photo)

Prep preview / Soccer

The young South Whidbey soccer team is on the rise.

The Falcons had only one senior and one junior last year when they used a late surge to qualify for the state tournament after going 5-10-1 during the regular season.

Maddy Drye, a Cascade Conference honorable mention selection last year, was the lone junior. The now senior will be backed this season by a talented junior class led by Allison Papritz, who finished among the league scoring leaders and earned second-team, all-conference honors in 2017.

Other juniors are Mallory Drye, Nicole Helseth, Karyna Hezel, Julian Larson, Lila McCleary, Samantha Ollis, Ashley Ricketts and Chandra Wallace.

The sophomore class will add depth with the help of Kelly Murnane, the only freshman to start last fall. Other sophomores are Lily Farnham and Camille White.

New to the team are senior Carli Newman and freshmen Molly Cobbs, Ashton Helseth, Sydney Ollis, Kailey Ricketts and Mikenna Wicher.

Coach Terry Swanson is excited about the future of the program.

“We have a young team but most of our better players are coming back; we have another year of skill under our belt,” he said. “We have a great core of players.”

Swanson expects the Falcons to be even more competitive this year and points to the team’s work ethic as a primary reason.

“We had a concerted summer program,” he said. The workouts included speed, agility and weight training.

“The kids were faithful,” he added. “About 75 percent of the players attended a majority of the sessions.”

The goal this season is to take the next step — win a match at state.

“I want to see that this team is stronger at the end of October than the beginning of September,” he said. “I want to see improvement.”

That improvement, he added, includes confidence as well as physical skills.

With the formation of the new North Sound Conference, South Whidbey won’t have to contend with 2A schools, but defending state 1A champion King’s remains.

South Whidbey travels to Oak Harbor for a jamboree at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30.

The Falcons go to Port Townsend (2-13 in 2017) at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 4, for their first match.

The home opener is 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, with Chimacum (2-11-1).