BELLINGHAM - Coach Brent De Ruyter and his staff spent an unusually long time standing in a circle with his young Lynden Christian girls' soccer team in the rain after a strong season ended in an emotionally wrenching way.
The coaches wanted to take as much time as needed to express their pride to the girls about how hard the Lyncs fought in their 2-1 loss to Seattle Academy in a loser-out game in the first round of the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Whatcom Community College.
"I was thrilled with our leadership, with the way we kept fighting," said De Ruyter of the Lyncs, who finished 11-8-1 with only two seniors who played regularly. "I think the girls will come out ready to play (for honors) next year."
LC senior Marissa Veldman came through with the goal of her career, a 25-yard power shot off a cross from team scoring leader Courtney Hollander in the 69th minute to cut Seattle Academy's lead to the final 2-1.
But on a night the Lyncs had a 19-5 edge in shots on goal, that was the last shot they were to get.
"That game easily could have gone either way," said Seattle Academy coach Rob Phillips. "I thought LC dominated the first half and we were lucky to get out of there at halftime with a scoreless tie. They really are an outstanding team."
Hollander had the unlucky shot of the night - a free kick that hit the bar, barely missing a goal in the 65th minute. But Hollander had the mental toughness to come back with a perfect long cross four minutes later and gave Veldman the chance to end a 149-minute scoreless streak over two games, including LC's 3-0 loss to King's in the Class 1A Northwest District title game.
Seattle Academy (10-5-1) broke the scoreless tie in the 41st minute when Sofia Barsher scored on a penalty kick. Freshman goalkeeper Karibeth Engelsma - whom De Ruyter praised for outstanding contributions after taking over for an injured teammate several weeks ago - had no chance at the kick in the far left corner.
"She (Lyncs defender Shelby Brown) was just trying to make a play," Phillips said. "She wasn't trying to trip her."
Seattle Academy took a 2-0 lead when Lillie Atkins scored out of what De Ruyter called "a pile of bodies" during a crowded scene just in front of the goal in the 53rd minute.
Engelsma finished with five saves, showing exceptional spunk and fearlessness for a freshman. She made a couple of tumbling, diving saves shortly before the second goal, and also survived a fearsome collision in the first half.
Along with Veldman, the only other experienced senior the Lyncs will lose is senior midfielder Mikki Jansma. Most of their scoring power will return, including Courtney Hollander (14 goals, 5 assists), Lexi Vander Griend (nine goals, three assists), sophomore Sara Dougan (seven goals, three assists) and freshman Haley Hollander, who had three goals in LC's four postseason games.
SEATTLE ACADEMY 2, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 1
Scoring: Goal: Sophia Barger (SA); penalty kick. Time: 41; Goal: Lillie Atkins (SA); time: 53; Goal: Marissa Veldman (LC); assist: Courtney Hollander; time: 69. Shots on goal: LC 19, Seattle Academy 5. Goalkeepers (saves): Seattle Academy: Emily Mark (4); LC: Karibeth Engelsma (5).