Although the South Whidbey High School soccer team won 5-0 Thursday, Sept. 19, at Granite Falls, the match was no cakewalk.
The contest was “very physical,” according to South Whidbey coach Terry Swanson, and “Granite Falls has some very strong seniors that play competitive soccer with mainland clubs. They have good ball skills and they challenged our defense.”
The Falcons scooted to a 4-0 halftime lead, but the score “did not reflect the possession of play,” according to Swanson. “Granite Falls pressed us throughout the half and had some strong runs at goal. We only out shot them 7-4 in the first half.”
Falcon keeper Nicole Helseth helped put up the zero on the scorebook by making “several outstanding saves challenging forwards receiving through-balls from their midfield and fullbacks,” Swanson said.
Mikenna Wicker scored two minutes into the match on a long cross from Ashton Helseth, then Simone White punched in the second goal from her knees after being knocked down in the penalty area.
After scoring from midfield in the previous match, Ashton Helseth repeated the feat with another long-range shot, this one on a free kick from 45 yards. She added another free-kick goal from 25 yards with only 21 second left in the half.
Kelly Murnane broke up a defensive battle in the second half, scoring from 28 yards out in the 25th minute off an assist from her sister, Nikki Murnane.
“Overall our defensive four (Mallory Drye, Ashton Helseth, Sydney Ollis, Lila McCleary) have played outstanding in our first four games,” Swanson said. “We have only given up two goals over our first four games. Two of our freshmen, Nikki Murnane and Leniece Gonzales, have played important minutes in the back four and midfield positions as well.
“Our outside fullbacks (Drye and McCleary) are making overlap runs, which opens up the middle of the field as they spread the opposition’s defense.
“Our central midfielders (Kelly Murnane, Juliana Larson-Wickman, Ashley Ricketts, Kailey Rickets) have worked hard on improving our defensive presence in the center of the field and providing strong support and transition between defense and forwards.
“Our central midfielders have been taking more shots from out side the 18. One-third of our goals have been scored outside the 18.
“We have improved a lot in our transition and staying compact in our defensive roles. Our strikers and attacking midfielders (Alison Papritz, Wicher, Karyna Hezel, White, Elizabeth Haines and Samantha Ollis) are pressing the opposition’s defense and creating scoring opportunities off quick counter-attacks.
“They are challenging defenders 1-v-1 and taking the ball to goal. When they do not have scoring opportunities, they are looking for midfield options behind them or flankers making outside runs and not trying to force shots that are unavailable.”
South Whidbey (2-0, 4-0), which is tied with King’s for the North Sound Conference lead, hosts Sultan (1-1, 1-3) at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24.