Friday Harbor girls soccer team overcomes inexperience with cohesiveness

Wolverines open state tourney Nov. 10 in Sedro-Woolley Friday Harbor High School girls soccer team wasn’t expected to excel this season after nine experienced players did not return and only two seniors suited up.

“We lost eight seniors to graduation and one junior to foreign exchange,” said head coach Paul Hopkins.

“It’s a young team. At the beginning of the season I didn’t expect to do this well,” Hopkins said of the state-tournament-bound Wolverines.

This year’s squad will be shooting for a final-four appearance when they open the Class 1B/2B State Tournament against Life Christian Academy at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10 at Sedro-Woolley High School.

Friday Harbor (15-3-1) appears to peaking at the right time. The Wolverines came a goal shy of winning the Northwest 2B/1B League. They and long-time rival La Conner won a match apiece earlier in the season but the Braves (12-4-0) took the regular-season rubber match 1-0 and snagged the title. The Wolverines avenged that loss in last week’s Bi-District Championship with a 3-2 shootout victory and claimed the Bi-District’s top berth to the 16-team state tourney.

“That was fun, that was a fun game,” Hopkins said of the Bi-District title game. “We’re hoping for the same against Life Christian.”

The Wolverines must continue to “work really well together” to have success against the 12-4-0 Eagles, who finished second in the Pacific 2B League and the District 4 Tournament. “This team has a different mindset, they’re a really interesting group,” Hopkins said. “They’re a very cohesive group. They get along off the field as well on the field.”

The Wolverine coach noted seniors Abby Margolis and Hailey Swartz contributed significantly to the team’s cohesiveness through their “good leadership qualities. They lead on the field and off, which you expect of your seniors and captains.”

Margolis is leading the Wolverines in scoring. “Abby has the strongest leg on the team,” Hopkins said. “She’s responsible for several winning goals.”

The forward-midfielder’s drive to play is so fierce her coach often forces her to take a rest. “She NEVER, NEVER wants to come out of the game,” Hopkins said.

In spite of a nagging injury Swartz has made some key plays while on the pitch.

“Hailey’s really quick, she’s a force,” Hopkins said. “She plays the game well, she’s aggressive.”

Swartz moved from defender to midfielder this year but still contributes wherever she is needed most. “She’s played back four, midfield and stopper positions, and she’s willing to do all of those,” Hopkins said.

The senior is the only player on this year’s team who traveled to the semifinals at Sunset Chev Stadium in 2014. For Swartz to make a return trip to Sumner next week, she, Margolis and the rest of the Wolverines they must be “RELENTLESS” against the Eagles. “That’s our playoff motto,” Hopkins said. “We can’t watch the ball. Everybody has to have their head in the game. Everybody must be ON.”

If the Wolverines ground the Eagles, they could meet the Braves a fifth time this season: The winner of Friday Harbor’s and Life Christian’s match will face the winner of a Nov. 11 contest between La Conner and Adna.

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