Sports

Season ends for depleted Wildcats | Soccer

Oak Harbor
Oak Harbor's J.J. Mitchell (center, white jersey) goes airborne as the Wildcats attack the Meadowdale goal. Teammates Taylor Yancey, left, and Andrew Franssen look on.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey News-Times

The year began with high expectations and even higher hopes.

Those dreams evaporated for the Oak Harbor High School soccer team in a 3-0 loss to Meadowdale in a district tournament loser-out game Tuesday, May 13, at Wildcat Memorial Stadium.

Last year Oak Harbor qualified for the district tournament for the first time in 11 seasons and only the second since 1994.

With most of its starters back from a team which finished second in the Wesco North, including six seniors who started since their freshman year and five who earned all-conference, second-team honors, Oak Harbor was primed for its first trip to the state tournament in 20 years.

That didn't happen as the Wildcats literally limped through a 6-11-1 season.

Oak Harbor was hobbled by injuries all spring.

After the season-ending loss to Meadowdale, head coach Brian Thompson was reluctant to talk about the elephant —the one on crutches — in the room.

Not wanting to make excuses, Thompson was hesitant, but eventually offered: "Without our core seniors, it was devastating. The young kids filled a void, but it wasn't the same without our senior leadership."

In all, nine of 11 starters missed at least one match, and five reserves also sat at least once because of injuries.

It began before Oak Harbor played a match when junior starter Dakota Powers broke his leg during the first week of practice.

In addition, many players competed with injuries, hindering their ability to play at their best.

Only twice all season did Oak Harbor, minus Powers, send its strongest team onto the pitch.

Thompson acknowledged he stopped counting when the number of matches his starters missed approached 50.

"I really thought this would be the year we returned to the state tournament," Thompson said.

Three-year captain Alex Krantz and co-captain Andrew Mitchell "did an amazing job of helping keep the team together," Thompson said.

Senior Gavin Stewart said, "Once the players started dropping off, we woke up to the fact we weren't going to win the league title."

The focus, then, became making the playoffs, Stewart said.

Some positives did come out of the season, he added.

Younger players gained varsity experience and were able to learn from the seniors "the level of play expected for Oak Harbor soccer."

In the loss to Meadowdale, Oak Harbor held its own, if not controlled, the scoreless first half. That changed moments into the second period.

It took the Mavericks only 19 seconds to score after the break.

Meadowdale (10-6-2) added goals in the 64th and 77th minutes.

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