Sparkman chips in missed save for overtime thriller

LANGLEY — Maia Sparkman found herself in the right place at the right time.

LANGLEY — Maia Sparkman found herself in the right place at the right time.

In the second sudden death overtime period against Sultan on Tuesday, that place was just outside the goal and a little to the right. The South Whidbey junior midfielder chased down a long shot by freshman Kendra Warwick. Turk goalie Julianne Tran moved out of the goal, reached for the ball and had her gloves on it.

But the ball slipped out of her grip as she hit the turf, and Sparkman was there to shoot it into the back of the net for a double overtime Falcon victory, 3-2.

“Usually I’m not the one that goes up for the follows,” Sparkman said. “I knew we didn’t want to go into penalty kicks … It was just a lucky goal, I guess.”

A pair of defensive lapses put the Falcons (2-4-0 Cascade Conference; 2-5-1 overall) in the two sudden deaths. In the overtime periods, the first team to score wins. On Tuesday night at Waterman Field, South Whidbey scored the “golden goal” in the final two minutes of the second period and avoided a shootout.

Sultan (1-6-0 Cascade Conference; 2-7-0 overall) played catch-up almost all 80-minutes of regular time. Falcon senior forward Paige Farmer scored within the first two minutes for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Farmer’s third this year and gave her the most on the team, albeit only for another 15 minutes.

“The goalie came out too soon, and I just kind of toe-punted it in,” Farmer said.

South Whidbey repelled an offensive onslaught by Sultan, which tallied three shots on goal in 10 minutes. A quick transition from defense to offense caught the Turks on their heels. Falcon junior defender Katie Sibley had pushed past midfield, where she stopped Sultan’s attempt to clear the ball and lofted the ball across the middle. That’s where Falcon sophomore Kiana Murray sprinted past the defender, dribbled the ball to the middle and booted it in for a 2-0 lead in the 19th minute. Murray and Farmer are tied as the Falcons’ leading scorers with three goals each.

“We have a great setup now; we have two forwards,” Murray said. “We’re communicating more now.”

Holding an early lead has been a problem for South Whidbey, which allowed a tying score against Coupeville shortly after leading 1-0. After that match, Falcon head coach Ben Rusch said his team struggled to stay aggressive once it scored and led the match.

Such was the case against Sultan.

The Turks pressured the Falcon defenders with a slough of shots. And though several were saved by Falcon senior goalie Ellie Greene, eventually Greene’s dives fell short. A sliding kick by Turk senior Jessica McCann kept the ball away from the Falcon defenders and passed it to Turk junior forward Siera Strauss, who tapped it into the back of the net in the 20th.

“There was some lacking effort, I would say, in the first two halves,” said Falcon head coach Ben Rusch.

There were more opportunities for the Falcons in the first half to extend their lead. South Whidbey’s problem was that two goals were called back by the field umpires. Murray had a breakaway, one-on-one goal called back on an offsides whistle. In the final two minutes of stoppage time, Farmer dribbled between two defenders, drew Tran off the goal line and kicked the ball around her and into the net, but the field ref had blown his whistle to signal the end of the half, voiding the score.

Leading 2-1, the Falcons opened the second half playing defensively and it cost them. Turk senior Carley Nelson drilled a one-on-one shot against Greene into the right pole, which bounced the ball back into the net for a 2-2 score in the 65 minute.

Both teams locked down defensively and neither gained an edge before the regular-time whistle sounded. South Whidbey started the first overtime with the ball, but failed to get its offense a quality look after the ball was promptly intercepted on a pass to the sideline. In the second overtime, the Falcons pressured the Turks with a barrage of crosses and shots, until finally Warwick sent one from 20 yards out that hit Tran’s gloves and fell to her side, where Sparkman knocked it in for the win.

“I wanted to score and win the game,” Warwick said. “(Tran) didn’t have very firm hands, so we wanted to hit those hard shots.”

“I’m so happy right now. My day is made.”

On Thursday, South Whidbey crossed the ferry to challenge undefeated Archbishop Murphy (7-0 Cascade Conference; 9-0 overall). The Wildcats remained perfect after defeating the Falcons 8-0.