There is not much room between where the South Whidbey High School soccer team finished last year and the top of the state, but coach Emerson Robbins believes his troops came climb up several rungs this spring.
After finishing fourth in the Cascade Conference last year and second among 1A schools, the Falcons went on to take first in district, second in bi-district and fifth in state.
South Whidbey returns 13 lettermen and most of its starters from last year, so reaching the top four in the state is certainly within reach.
“I believe we have the talent to go deep into the play-offs, barring any injuries, suspensions, etc.,” Robbins said. “Last year, we got to the quarterfinals.
Robbins said his team could have advanced further had it not been missing three starters in the final contest.
South Whidbey also has an outstanding shot at winning the league championship in the new, all-A1 North Sound Conference.
The Falcons lost four players to graduation, including three all-league players, Lake Smith, Ari Rohan and Silas Batiste. Smith was the conference’s Defender of the Year and an all-state selection. Rohan was also an all-conference defender, and Batiste scored eight goals and collected eight assists.
However, plenty of top-notch talent returns, including three first-team, all-league selections, seniors Julian Inches, Michael Lux and Graham Colar. Goalkeeper Inches, whom Robbins calls one of the best among 1A players in the state, will anchor the defense, while Lux, the leading scorer in the Cascade Conference in 2018 with 20 goals, and Colar, who registered 15 goals and seven assists last spring, will pace the attack.
Other returning lettermen are seniors Nevin Daniels, Eli Waldron and Cormac Workman; juniors Andrew Curtis and Joey Lane; and sophomores Taylor Daniels, Aidan Donnelly, Reilly McVay, Aidan O’Brien and Thomas Simms.
Robbins expects freshmen Sequoia Durham and Ryan Morgan to earn varsity minutes.
The strength of the team will be its offense, according to Robbins. He also likes its depth.
“We don’t have a single player on varsity that I don’t have complete confidence in putting on the pitch,” he said. “I don’t know that I could have made that statement in any past year I’ve coached. These are a fine bunch of lads and we expect to have a great season.”
His biggest concern is replacing his since graduated defenders. Waldron, who missed most of last season with an injury, should help fill the defensive void.
“It will be a successful season if the boys stay healthy and eligible and they work hard and we have fun,” Robbins said. “That’s what the game is supposed to be about. At least, that’s how I look at it. If you win, but you’re not having fun, what’s the point? However, I do believe winning is usually a lot more fun than losing. So we do plan on a lot of winning.”
South Whidbey (12-7-2 last year) will compete in the Oak Harbor Jamboree at 5 p.m. Thursday, March 7. The Falcons will go to Bellevue Christian on Saturday, March 9; the site and time have not been decided. The home opener is 5 p.m. Monday, March 11, with Forks.