BLAINE - If soccer pays off big the way basketball already has for Blaine's only seniors, Alexis McElwain, Olivia Olason and Rhiana Breedlove, this is going to be a most competitive girls' soccer season.
The three seniors agreed that soccer is already paying major dividends as an outlet for their well-known competitive spirit.
Blaine's 3-2 Northwest Conference victory over perennial power Lynden Christian on Thursday, Sept. 19, at Pipeline Fields was the seniors' first ever victory over the Lyncs. They readily acknowledged it was the most memorable soccer game they have played.
"So far!" Olason quickly added, convincingly echoed by the other two multi-sport leaders. Clearly, these girls are gunning for bigger and better things for first-year varsity coach Kelly Tuski.
The game was as pulse-pounding as could be expected of any early season matchup.
Even though the Lyncs (1-2 overall, 0-2 NWC) were getting about three times as many shot opportunities, the Borderites (2-2-1, 1-1) stunned LC in the first half with a goal by sophomore Ashley Quesada off an assist by junior Emily Roe and a score by Olason on a penalty kick.
The Lyncs rallied from their 2-0 halftime deficit with two goals in the second half by Livi Vander Griend, one of seven seniors they started.
Vander Griend beautifully handled crosses by Courtney Hollander in the 56th minute, pulling LC within 2-1, and by sophomore Shaye Brandsma in the 70th minute, cutting Blaine's lead to the final 3-2.
The quick Quesada, however, played the spoiler with an unassisted goal in the 59th minute for her sixth score of the young season, putting the Borderites up 3-1.
"Ashley has instincts you just can't teach," said Tuski of Quesada, whose father, assistant coach Giovanni Quesada, played college and pro soccer in Costa Rica.
Tuski, who played at Gonzaga University, feels fortunate to inherit center midfielders Olason and McElwain, both of whom she called "mature and confident." In other words, perfect for leadership roles with an already well-known refusal to either give or to back down from contact.
"They were everywhere," LC coach Brent De Ruyter sportingly said of Olason and McElwain. "Blaine played really tough."
First-year starting goalkeeper Breedlove, who had never played soccer until her sophomore year, made 10 saves - several of the diving variety - as the Lyncs took 27 shots compared to nine for the Borderites.
"I was a little nervous," said Breedlove. "But they (Blaine's midfielders and defenders) kept me confident. They helped protect me."
McElwain said her team was determined not to be shaken up by NWC contender Burlington-Edison's 5-0 win over Blaine two days earlier, or by the fact the Borderites had been shut out two games in a row.
"Our attitude was to come out and give it our all," said McElwain. "We knew we were better than that loss. Our practice yesterday was actually really relaxed."
Olason was especially pleased to demonstrate the Borderites really could play with the Lyncs, who were the NWC's top Class 1A postseason seed last year.
"I feel it's a must (contending for this year's top seed)," Olason said. "We really want it."
McElwain agreed just as emphatically as she cleared space at midfield.
"Yes, this win really gives us motivation," said McElwain.
Blaine's young starting back line, Caylie Sharp, Gretchen Kordas, Bianca Rodriguez and Jessica Belding, responded alertly to the leadership of Olason and McElwain and other good midfield spirit displayed by sophomore Mackenna Magner.
Magner was so proud of classmate Quesada's goal production that she made a special effort to point it out.
Quesada's second goal - ultimately the game-winner - was a classic corner shot that seemed to roll forever from right to left until it hit the left side of the goal mouth.
De Ruyter was especially pleased with how well Vander Griend stepped up offensively.
"Livi just played her spot really well," said the longtime coach. "Our experience is huge for us. In the past, this team has responded well (to adversity). I feel we will again."
After the physically demanding game, the players and coaches for both teams displayed inspiring sportsmanship by quickly joining in a prayer circle.
"This was a great start (in the early season)," said Tuski.
BLAINE 3, LYNDEN CHRISTIAN 2
Scoring -- Goal: Ashley Quesada (B); assist: Emily Roe; time: 20; Goal: Oliva Olason (B), penalty kick; time: 27; Goal: Livi Vander Griend (LC); assist: Courtney Hollander; time: 56; Goal: Quesada; time: 59; Goal: Vander Griend; assist: Shaye Brandsma; time: 70. Shots: LC 27, Blaine 9. Goalkeepers (saves): LC: Daphnee Manderson (2); Blaine: Rhiana Breedlove (10).