BELLINGHAM - The formats of the Class 1A District and Tri-District Tournaments have taken a physical and mental toll on the Meridian and Blaine girls' soccer teams.
The clubs have played four matches in the last week.
Sensing fatigue, Meridian coach Andrea Ames gambled.
"We took the day off yesterday and didn't even practice," Ames said. "I told them, it is either going to make me look like an idiot or make it look like I made a really good decision."
The call paid off.
Senior midfielder Gladys Galiano scored off a Lexi McKinnon cross in the 29th minute, and Kelsea Clark added a second goal in the 48th, propelling the Trojans to a 2-0 win and a Class 1A State Tournament berth Thursday, Nov. 1, in a Class 1A Tri-District match at Orca Field on Whatcom Community College's campus.
It's the second straight year Meridian has qualified for state. Last season, the Trojans lost to Overlake 2-2 in a 5-4 shootout in the first round.
Meridian beat Blaine 1-0 Saturday, Oct. 27, in a match for tri-district seeding but, with an opportunity to get even and nab a state berth, the Borderites appeared to be a step slower than their counterparts.
"We stayed fresh," said Galiano of the effect of having Wednesday off. "Having that rest time made our minds focused, and we came out with more energy and got the win."
Blaine coach Dan Steelquist also noticed the energy disparity.
"We looked like we were kind of tired," he said. "It wasn't our best game. It just seemed like we were a little behind more of the time. We tried to make some adjustments."
Both teams struggled putting together anything offensively during the first 20 minutes. Meridian's Kendra Holmes headed a ball wide right of goal in the 18th minute, and McKinnon managed a shot on frame three minutes later.
While the Trojans couldn't find a way to test Blaine keeper Anna Hewitt, they played most of the half in Blaine's defensive third.
The work rate eventually produced opportunites.
McKinnon made a run with the ball down the left side of the field and sent a cross left to right to Galiano, who sprinted into Blaine's 18-yard box. On the fly, Galiano stuck out her leg and redirected McKinnon's cross into the lower right portion of the goal to give Meridian a one-goal lead.
"It's my senior year, and I'm so glad I got my first goal of the season when it counted," Galiano said. "Honestly, I don't really know (how I scored). It was kind of just in the moment. I knew Lexi crossed it, and I tried to put my foot out there."
Taylor Lunde nearly gave Meridian a 2-0 halftime lead in the closing seconds of the first 40. From 20 yards out, Lunde struck a high shot, but Hewitt leaped up and got enough of her hand on the ball to deflect it off the crossbar and back into play.
Blaine's Liz Berry and Hope Wilkett were unable to work through sturdy Trojans defenders Leyla Marino, Trinell Carpenter, Karissa Culley and Clark. The Borderites didn't put one shot on frame in the first half, while Meridian took four cracks at goal.
Adjustments Steelquist said he made helped Blaine's attack in the second half. Berry provided the Borderites with their best scoring opportunity five minutes after the break. The senior forward received a nice pass from Ashley Quesada but couldn't put a threatening shot on goal. Her attempt from 15 yards sailed high.
Four minutes later, off a Lunde corner, Clark matched Galiano with her first goal of the season.
Lunde's kick into the six-yard box deflected out toward the 18, where Clark, on the volley, swung her leg and put a shot about Hewitt's head and into the back of the net.
Two goals was all the separation Meridian needed, especially with its veteran cast of defenders hungry for back-to-back state trips.
"We got a shutout from our senior goalkeeper," Ames said. "Trinell Carpenter is a senior, and that girl is dynamite. She is a leader on the field every day. Gladys had one of the best games she's had all season. Kelsea stepped up big, and Leyla, our other outside back, is rock solid every day."
Despite the loss, Blaine can still clinch a state berth.
It plays either Northwest or Seattle Academy in a winner-to-state, loser-out match at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at King's High School.
"We've been out of the playoffs for a lot of years," Steelquist said. "I think we are learning what playoff soccer looks like. We turn around again and play Saturday. I can't say enough about my girls. Maybe today wasn't our day, but I think this is just an awesome group of kids."
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
MERIDIAN 2, BLAINE 0
Scoring: Goal: Gladys Galiano (Meridian), assist: Lexi McKinnon, time: 29; Goal: Kelsea Clark (Meridian), time: 48. Shots on goal: Meridian 7; Blaine 2. Goalies (saves): Meridian: Abbi Rautenberg (2); Blaine: Anna Hewitt (5).
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.