A tight-knit group of friends who excel on the soccer field are giving South Whidbey High School students something to cheer about. The team is at the height of a remarkable season and may have a shot at the state championships.
The juniors and seniors who make up the core of the varsity girl’s soccer team have been playing together for several years. Some of them started playing soccer as young as age 4.
Coach Terry Swanson has known many of the players since they were part of a select team called Whidbey Reign.
The 2021-2022 season has seen some enormous successes for South Whidbey soccer. The high school team clinched a big win in the Emerald Sound Conference Chinook League Championship, with a 9-2-1 record.
South Whidbey High School plays against six other teams in the league, all of which are private schools in the Seattle area. As Swanson pointed out, these schools are not bound by geography in the way that South Whidbey is, and can recruit from a pool of thousands of different players on the mainland.
Their hard work and close friendships, in his mind, are what set South Whidbey apart from the other schools.
“It’s a big thing what these kids did,” he said. “They compete, these teams. It’s really nice to see. And they’re not afraid. They go in there, and they take it to them. It’s a really proud year for their families and all of us.”
Just six months ago, during the 2020-2021 season, the Falcons were at the bottom of their league.
The players agreed it was in large part because of COVID-19 regulations, the loss of 12 seniors from the previous year and the fact that the team was acclimating to the new league it had just joined that very season.
But this season, the Falcon girls have climbed their way to the top of the league. And they don’t seem to have any plans to slow down.
“We put in the hard work over the summer and all the girls saw the difference of the hard work and what it takes to get to the top,” Assistant Coach Anne Haines said.
“We want to be in state and we want to go further than we’ve ever gone,” Swanson said, explaining that in the past when South Whidbey has qualified for the state championships, the team has been eliminated during the first round.
“That’s our goal,” he said. “It’s a worthy goal and it won’t be easy.”
The players credited the team’s strong dynamic for helping to bring them to the top.
“An achievement I think is pretty big is getting as far as we are and being able to say that we are league champions and we get to do play-offs and hopefully we make state this year,” senior Ashton Helseth said.
“I’m pretty proud of our defenders for letting in like three goals the whole season. They’re beasts,” senior Willa Steeb said.
Helseth and Steeb are joined by other seniors Sydney Ollis, Kailey Ricketts and Mikenna Wicher, who are all principal varsity players. Juniors Simone White, Nikki Murnane, Leniece Gonzales, Elizabeth Haines and Madeline Racicot make up the rest of the team’s center.
The girls have noticed more support from their classmates this year. Every game this season has had a student section, which is unusual for girl’s soccer.
“Previous years we’ve been like kind of put under the gutter by football and other sports, but this year we’re finally getting our recognition,” White said.
South Whidbey will face off against Eastside Prep this Saturday, Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. near Castle Park at South Whidbey’s Community Park and Sports Complex. The team will play two other home games this upcoming week in their quest for a place in the state championships.