It was for the playoffs.
It was for revenge.
It was for a chance to walk off their home field together, united, as winners one last time.
Most of all, it was for Ayla.
When the GU19 Whidbey Islanders select soccer squad pulled out a thriller Saturday, edging the visiting Bellevue Ravens 1-0, it capped a whirlwind week.
The team held a red, white and blue going-away party for Ayla Muller, their spark-plug, who is moving to Roda, Spain with her family.
Then they took the turf at Oak Harbor’s Wildcat Stadium for the final time — most of the team is comprised of high school seniors who are headed towards graduation — and assured they would play on for at least another week.
Just without Muller, who exits the country May 1.
“It was a very emotional game,” said Islander coach Sean LeVine. “Our final home game for our team and Ayla’s final game with us.
“This is a tough loss for our team as she is not only a great player, center-back, goal keeper, but she is absolutely adored by her teammates and coaches!,” he added. “In fact, we owe much of our shut out today to her.”
Muller, who shared time in goal with Kenzie Perry, took a leg to the head late in the game to cap her Islander career.
“She went out with a bang, literally, but thankfully she is fine,” LeVine said. “We are sad to see her go, but excited for her new adventure.
“I know she plans to play soccer over there, so I’m very happy about that.”
Beyond Muller’s departure and the game being the home finale, a victory was huge.
It avenged a 3-2 loss to the Ravens from earlier in the season and moved the Islanders into first place in their State Cup bracket.
Whidbey advances to play at Bellevue next weekend, with a win or possibly a tie in that game pushing them into the semifinals May 9.
With both teams fighting for their playoff lives, the game was a hard-fought affair, but the Islanders had two factors firmly in their favor.
“What a game! It was really non-stop action between two fairly evenly matched teams,” LeVine said. “The only difference was that we have the better defense and conditioning!
“We out hustled them!”
With the Islanders playing stellar defense, Perry was only called on for two saves in the first half, while Muller made three after the break.
Whidbey’s goal came on a bang-bang play, where it had several looks at the net, but actually scored via an own goal by the Ravens.
Late in the second half Jacalyn Hefflefinger, powering down the sideline, slid a cross into the box, finding Lydia Peplinski on the fly.
Defended well, Peplinksi took the ball wide and put a cross right across the top of the goal box, where Perry (now playing on the field) came flying in and got a touch on it, causing it to deflect off a defender and into the goal.
Even if the ball hadn’t taken a fortunate bounce, the Islanders were primed, with Gillian Crossley sitting ready to punch the ball in as well.
“It was an own goal, but a real team effort!” LeVine said.