DEMING - Mount Baker's Alex Tyska said his side wanted revenge. Mountaineers coach Jason Jorgensen sensed his club played with a "chip on their shoulder."
But Baker earned much more than a little payback against Nooksack Valley, which beat the Mountaineers twice this year, Wednesday, May 1, in Deming.
The win was the first postseason victory for the 13 seniors listed on Mount Baker's roster and the first playoff appearance for the Mountaineers since 2008 when they lost to Sultan.
"It's awesome making history like this for Baker," Tyska said.
Mount Baker's leading goal scorer notched two scores to turn the momentum of the game, helping the Mountaineers earn a 4-2 come-from-behind win against the Pioneers during the opening round of the Class 1A Northwest Conference Tournament. Baker's Edgar Zavala and Mark Kutrosksi each added second-half goals.
The victory earns the Mountaineers an automatic berth to the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament and advances them to a Northwest District semifinal match against South Whidbey at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 2, in South Whidbey. Nooksack Valley's season ended with the loss.
The Pioneers beat Baker 1-0 during a non-conference game on March 16 and again 2-0 during a conference match on March 28, and for much of the first half Wednesday, the Mountaineers seemed to be heading for a third loss after they squandered chance after chance. Mount Baker took 15 first-half shots but only put four on frame and took 28 shots all together.
"The last Nooksack Valley game we played here at home, it was kind of the same thing," Jorgensen said. "We missed 25-to-30 shots. It was the same thing. They were hitting the ball hard, had lots of opportunities but couldn't finish a single one."
Zavala's miss from inside five feet on an open goal two minutes in seemed like a bad omen for Baker. Nooksack Valley's goal in the 23rd minute, virtually out of nowhere, from senior Alejandro Hurtado made matters worse, and Northwest Conference leading goal scorer Luke VanWingerden's goal two minutes after Hurtado's that gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead sent Mount Baker scrambling.
"I think for them, they get quite frustrated pretty quickly, and to see a couple of those shots come in, and missing from three yards out, being offsides and things like that, that kind of got in their head," Jorgensen said, "but they were realizing that they were getting opportunities, and they have to be a little more patient inside the box instead of hitting it as hard as they could."
Tyska gave the Mountaineers the boost of momentum they so-desperately needed a minute before the half ended.
Zan Roman, Zavala and Tyska helped Mount Baker play most of the first 40 minutes inside Nooksack Valley's end of the field, and in the 39th minute Tyska finally put a shot past Pioneers' goalkeeper Favian Rodriguez, who made several tremendous saves throughout the match.
Tyska gathered the ball, and streaked down the right side of the field before putting a move on a Nooksack Valley defender to create a clear shot from just outside the 18-yard box. He struck the ball beautifully, sending it past Rodriguez into the top left corner of the net.
"It was great for him, because it brought a bit of life back into him, and it allowed him to get a little more confidence," Jorgensen said.
That confidence translated into a pinch of luck during Tyska's equalizing score in the 50th minute. The Baker senior sent a low corner kick from the left flag to the near post. A Pioneer defender next the post let the ball roll past him between himself and the goal. Rodriguez seemed caught off-guard by his defender's move, tried to grab the ball but accidently tipped it into his net.
"I just kicked it," Tyska said. "It was curving, and it looked like they were going to back off it, but it just went right in."
The Mountaineers first-half missed opportunities changed to goals in the final 40 minutes. Zavala blasted a shot past Rodriguez to give Mount Baker a 3-2 lead four minutes after Tyska's second goal, and Kutroski gave the Mountaineers a two-goal buffer with a score off a Zavala assist in the 69th minute.
"They have some fast players," Nooksack Valley coach Valentin Villalobos said. "They outran all my defense, and my defense got tired and more tired. You can only hold them for a certain amount of time."
It was a bitter season-ending loss for the Pioneers, but the club showed vast improvement over 2012's winless campaign.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
MOUNT BAKER 4, NOOKSACK VALLEY 2
Scoring: Goal: Alejandro Hurtado (Nooksack Valley), time: 23; Goal: Luke VanWingerden (Nooksack Valley), assist: Levi VanWingerden, time: 25; Goal: Alex Tyska (Mount Baker), time: 39; Goal: Alex Tyska (Mount Baker), time: 50; Goal: Edgar Zavala (Mount Baker), time: 54; Goal: Mark Kutroski (Mount Baker), assist: Edgar Zavala, time: 69. Shots on goal: Nooksack Valley 5; Mount Baker 11. Goalies (saves): Nooksack Valley: Favian Rodriguez (6); Mount Baker: Bryce Logan (3).
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.