Meridian boys' soccer avoids elimination

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 2, 2013 

LAUREL - Alan Eyoub, the only freshman in Meridian's starting lineup, may have needed more time to realize he had scored his first goal than the few seconds the Trojans needed to assist him.

In the game's opening seconds, Eyoub took a pass from sophomore Jake Birnell and scored. Not only did he produce another goal, but four other teammates also scored in Meridian's 6-1 soccer victory over King's in an elimination game of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament on Wednesday, May 1.

The victory earned the senior-laden Trojans at least three more games - two at district and at least one at tri-district.

Third-seeded Meridian (6-6-5) will face top-seeded Lynden Christian (9-5-3) on Thursday, May 2, in a district semifinal in Lynden. LC opened with a 1-0 win over Coupeville.

"Junior Castro kicked off to Tomas Alvarado and Tomas immediately dropped the ball to me," said Birnell. "It was not a set piece. Alan made a diagonal run behind the back line, just like we've been working on."

Eyoub said Birnell's assist was just about the best pass he had ever seen at any point in a game.

"Jake gave me a perfect pass. I was just so shocked to see the ball land right at my feet," said the freshman, who has started every game but the non-league opener. "I think I took about five seconds to realize I had scored. I've never had a goal like that in any game."

The Trojans came in with only one player among the Northwest Conference's top 25 point scorers - Alvarado, with 19 points including nine goals.

So what happened? Five different players scored and Birnell's three assists matched his season total.

Meridian coach Joe Spencer - whose seniors recalled seeing their season end in the elimination round last year - loved the all-out enthusiasm and crisp teamwork his team displayed after disheartening losses to Sehome and Class 1A rival Mount Baker to end the regular season.

"Everybody contributed, everybody played and we all had a lot of fun," said Spencer, whose seniors have improved after a 4-12-1 season as juniors. "It was so nice to see the kids rebound from those two losses."

Meridian removed a lot of pressure on the eight starting seniors with three goals in the first 23 minutes. Striker Junior Castro scored on a finesse shot off an assist from Eyoub in the fifth minute. Alvarado, the other striker in Meridian's 2-4-4 style, tallied on a power shot to the right corner of the goal off an assist from Birnell in the 23rd minute. It was Castro's third goal and Alvarado's 10th.

Midfielder Zach Donahue scored his third goal of the season off an accurate corner kick by Birnell in the 32 nd minute, giving the Trojans a 4-0 halftime bulge over second-seeded King's (8-8-1).

Meridian kept a noteworthy focus in the second half and added goals by Eyoub on a rebound off Castro and on Castro's assist to junior midfielder Osualdo Zamora for his fourth goal of the year and Meridian's season-high sixth.

"I used that loser-out loss last year to motivate me," said Donahue. "We also used that 6-4 loss to Sehome (after the Trojans led 4-2) to teach us to keep our focus. We talked about that at halftime, and we did not let up. And what made me happiest was seeing so many people getting goals."

Senior goalkeeper Patrick Carlson was called on to make only two saves as Meridian outshot the Knights 17-3. Meridian's all-senior back line - Kody Moreno, Jeremy Ryan, Pavel Melnyk and Casey Bromet - clicked well in a thoroughly dominating effort.

Meridian's starting midfielders - Eyoub, Donahue, Zamora, and Birnell - forced more than 80 percent of the game to be played on the King's side of the field.

Birnell and Eyoub said they were happiest to see the seniors earn at least three more games.

"We were just playing for the seniors," said Ayoub.

"It was all heart for our seniors," said Birnell. "We wanted this so much for them. I did feel some pressure."

In fact, Meridian's midfielders were so active and in constant control that King's seemed to be facing six strikers at times, not two.

The quick game-opening goal was especially huge because the Trojans were shut out 3-0 by Mount Baker in their last regular-season game.

"That goal meant so much," said Birnell. "That goal meant so much," said Birnell.

MERIDIAN 6, KING'S 1

Scoring: Goal: Alan Eyoub (M); assist: Jake Birnell; time: 1:00; Goal: Junior Castro (M); assist: Eyoub; time: 5:00; Goal: Tomas Alvarado (M); assist: Birnell; time: 23:00; Goal: Zach Donahue (M); assist: Birnell; time: 32:00; Goal: Eyoub; assist: Castro; time: 50:00; Goal: Osualdo Zamora (M); assist: Castro; time: 60:00; Goal: Own goal let King's score. Shots on goal: Meridian 17, King's 3. Goalkeepers (saves): Meridian: Patrick Carlson (2); King's: Logan Griffis (7).

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