FERNDALE - Mount Baker senior Roman Vetkov took care of a whole lot of soccer frustration with his first goal of the season.
Having missed Baker's previous two games - both shutout losses - with an injury, Vetkov was exceptionally hungry for a win, not just a goal.
He was denied on a clear breakaway with 20 minutes to play on an outstanding diving save by Ferndale freshman goalkeeper Ful Schenborn. But Vetkov refused to be discouraged, spotted a nearly identical opportunity about two minutes later, and made good on another breakaway.
Vetkov's unassisted goal provided the eventual winner in Baker's 3-1 Northwest Conference victory over Ferndale in miserably muddy and windy conditions on Wednesday, March 20.
Vetkov was even happier for senior teammate Alex Tyska, who scored in the 20th and 77th minutes for what he confirmed was his first multiple-goal game.
"It had been really frustrating not to have a goal yet," Vetkov said. "They announced that I had set a school record with nine goals last year (despite a 3-13 season), but I sometimes felt selfish. I've been working hard on getting assists this year (he assisted on three of Baker's six goals in its first two games)."
The loss continued a streak of total frustration for Ferndale (0-5 overall, 0-2 NWC).
The Class 3A Golden Eagles, who lost to Class 2A state hopefuls Sehome, Bellingham and Squalicum in their first three games, have suffered three defeats by one goal and two setbacks by two scores, although the loss to Class 1A Baker (3-2, 1-1) could easily have been a one-goal game.
Last year, when Ferndale went 7-9, none of the losses came by more than two goals and five were by one score.
In other words, the Golden Eagles seem far from an 0-5 caliber team. They seemed poised to explode in the first half, but freshman goalkeeper Bryce Logan kept the Mountaineers in the game with six saves before halftime while giving up one goal.
Nate Fallis broke through for Ferndale in the game's 23rd minute with a power shot into the right side of the goal, with an assist credited to Michael Steele, creating a 1-1 tie. It was Fallis' third goal of the season.
Baker coach Jason Jorgensen was pleased with his team's energy level.
"We came out playing well and continued it with a high level of energy," said Jorgensen, who noted that scoring standouts Zan Roman and Edgar Zavala were sidelined. "We won a lot of 50-50 balls with our two center backs, Austin Makela and Tim Tikhonov. They played very well."
Back line teammates Eduardo Medina and Ruslan Lebedev helped limit Ferndale to four shots in the second half, including one on which Logan made a save in the last minute.
Ferndale lost a key back line defender, junior Lanson Warren, to injury for the final 60 minutes at about the time Tyska scored his first goal on a classic power kick off an assist by Tikhonov.
"It felt awesome," said Tyska, a striker who came in with one goal in Baker's first four games. "I was anticipating where the ball might land (and it often just plopped in the mud) and working hard in the corner."
Vetkov figures this should be a breakthrough year for Baker.
"Our goal is the No. 1 seed for 1A district," said Vetkov, who helped beat 1A contender Lynden Christian 4-2 in a non-league game last week and will meet the Lyncs again March 26 in an NWC game. "Our goalie (Logan) is a freshman, but he has more overall experience in goal than anyone we've had since I've been here."
Ferndale will try to bounce back against Burlington-Edison on Friday, March 22, while Mount Baker next hosts Friday Harbor the same day.
MOUNT BAKER 3, FERNDALE 1
Scoring: Goal: Alex Tyska (MB); assist: Tim Tikhonov; time: 20:00; Goal: Nate Fallis (F); assist: Michael Steele; time: 23:00; Goal: Roman Vetkov (MB); time: 62:00; Goal: Tyska (MB) 77:00. Shots on goal: Mount Baker 11, Ferndale 10. Goalkeepers (saves): Mount Baker, Bryce Logan (7); Ferndale: Ful Schenborn (3).