LAUREL - It took a defender as sturdy, speedy and skillful as Ferndale sophomore Carly Bannerman to overshadow four scoring standouts with 30 goals among them.
That's how effective Ferndale coach Joe Gonzalez thought Bannerman was in the Golden Eagles' 0-0 tie with Meridian on Tuesday, Oct. 9, in a Northwest Conference match-up of girls' soccer district playoff contenders.
The Class 3A Golden Eagles and Class 1A Trojans came in with a combined league record of 9-4-2 and four of the circuit's top 12 goal scorers.
Yet Bannerman - whom Gonzalez said he would have nominated as "player of the game" if there was such an award - wasn't satisfied.
"We've played better defensive games," said Bannerman, whose Golden Eagles (5-4-3, 5-2-2) remained in good position to beat out a fourth-place Western Conference team for a Class 3A district playoff spot on a percentage basis. "We did play really tough and stayed in there. But have played better before."
Likewise, Meridian coach Andrea Ames -- whose Trojans (7-2-3 overall, 4-2-2) came in with the only winning league record among the five Class 1A teams in the NWC -- expressed plenty of pride in her defense.
"You've got to show a lot of love to our defense, for today and the whole season," she said. "We've now given up six goals in 12 games. Our girls didn't let down and they didn't back down. They played tough and they battled for (the full) 80 minutes. I'm really proud of them, because Ferndale has some studly playmakers."
One of those Ferndale playmakers, senior Kelli Bannerman, acknowledged Meridian's defensive effort.
"It was a little bit frustrating for us," she said. "We need to work out a system and execute better."
Ferndale forced Meridian goalkeeper Abbi Rautenberg to make four saves, all in the second half. The last came with 13 minutes remaining on a 30-yard power shot by Kelli Bannerman off a free kick.
Meridian got all four of its shots in the second half. Golden Eagles' goalkeeper Vernelle Johnson was required to make only one save, so effective was Ferndale's backline defense led by Carly Bannerman, Ali Gonzalez, Corrie Wilson and Shelby Slaughter.
Meridian used all-out defensive hustle, including that of backline starters Leyla Marino, Karissa Culley, Madie Holz and Trinell Carpenter.
Ferndale did a good job of marking Meridian's young scoring standouts, junior Taylor Lunde (9 goals) and sophomore Lexi McKinnon (8 goals).
Meanwhile, Ferndale's Kelli Bannerman (7 goals) and sophomore Jordin Bartel (6 goals) were limited about as well as a defense can do the job against them, Ames figured of her stubborn stoppers.
The outcome left Gonzalez, who was pleased that his team's defensive clear-outs were improved, more impressed than ever with Carly Bannerman's potential.
"I have to give kudos to Carly," the coach said of the sophomore. "She's just been so tough. I think if she stays healthy, she'll be a collegiate standout."
Meridian has an especially challenging final four games -- at Burlington-Edison on Thursday, Oct. 11; at Class 1A rival Lynden Christian on Oct. 16; at home against defending NWC champion Sehome on Oct. 18; and at Mount Baker on Oct. 22.
Ferndale also has it far from easy, with three league games remaining against Squalicum on Oct. 11 and Lynden on Oct. 18, both at home, and a regular-season finale against Bellingham on Oct. 22 at Civic Stadium.
FERNDALE 0, MERIDIAN 0
Shots on goal: Ferndale 5, Meridian 4. Goalkeepers (saves): Ferndale, Vernelle Johnson (1); Meridian: Abbi Rautenberg (4).