Meridian girls' soccer stays alive in tri-district

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 5, 2013 

BELLINGHAM - Northwest's keeper, Katie Fallon, pivoted her body to the right as she watched Taylor Lunde's shot from 15 yards out wrap away from her into the upper left-hand corner of the net.

Fallon's feet stuttered forward, as she glanced at her defenders as if to say, "What could I do?"

"I decided I was going to try the shot from out far because we hadn't tested her yet," Lunde said. "I was like, 'Please go toward the corner.'"

Lunde would later add another goal to help lift the Meridian girls' soccer team past Northwest 2-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 5, at Civic Stadium, in a loser-out match in the first round of the Class 1A Tri-District Girls' Soccer Tournament.

With the win, Meridian advances to play on Thursday, Nov. 7, against University Prep at Orting.

Despite it being the opening round of tri-districts, the Trojans faced the trying dilemma of the postseason: Win or go home. If they were to lose, the three seniors - Lunde, Kendra Holmes and Haley Belanger - would be walking off Civic's new turf for the last time.

And while inspiration wasn't hard to come by, all the players huddled together and spoke of this reality before the beginning of the match.

"Throughout the season, we grew and became a family," Lunde said. "We were just letting them know that you don't expect it to affect you, but then when it actually does happen, it's hard."

For the time being, the "family" Lunde spoke of stays together, but it might not for much longer if Meridian struggles to finish open looks as it did time and again against Northwest.

Aside from Lunde's initial goal in the second minute, and her rebound goal in the 46th minute, the Trojans failed to convert open looks into goals, outshooting their opponents 20-3. A troubling trend, no doubt, for Meridian coach Andrea Ames.

"The further you go into the postseason, the fewer chances you get, so you really have to put them into the back of the net," Ames said. "It's a good learning lesson for us."

On the bright side, she noted, her team did have plenty of chances to turn this particular match into a runaway.

"On the positive side, we were able to create so many dangerous opportunities," Ames said.

Lunde could easily have had one, maybe two more goals, but the most poignant of her misses came off a rebound from a shot by her sister, Payton Lunde, at the end of the first half. Payton Lunde struck a right-footed shot that Fallon batted down into the path of a crossing Taylor Lunde, who lifted the shot too high, and it hit the crossbar and ricocheted out into the field. That was just moments after Kendra Holmes hit the left post on a shot that had Northwest's keeper beat.

The shot brought Taylor Lunde back to memories of a match she played in her sophomore year in which she and a teammate missed upwards of 20 shots between the two of them, many of which sailed high.

"Everybody makes fun of me for it, just joking around with me, so it just makes me laugh," Lunde said, "(but) it's frustrating because yeah, it would give us that cushion that we want, but it's also one of those moments that you just have to laugh at it."

Keying many of Meridian's open looks was junior forward Lexi McKinnon. McKinnon, who missed two weeks during the season due to a knee injury, constantly put pressure on Northwest's backline with perfect, leading passes to the feet of cutting Trojans.

"Today was the first day that I really was like, 'That is the old Lexi,'" Ames said. "She was all over the field. She was creating opportunities for herself, creating opportunities for the other players. Hard to mark. Flying everywhere - it was so great to have her back at her top."

Taylor Lunde, who was on the receiving end of many of McKinnon's crisp passes, said she is one of the most important pieces if Meridian plans on making a deep postseason run.

"We managed without her, but it is great having her back because she just adds that much more," Lunde said of McKinnon. "She adds a whole new level of offensive attack to our team. Her balls, her crosses, her shots, all of it."

Reach Alex Bigelow at alex.bigelow@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2238. Follow on Twitter @bhamsports for other Whatcom County sports news

MERIDIAN 2, NORTHWEST 0

Scoring: Goal: Taylor Lunde (Meridian) Assist: Haley Belanger, Time: 2:00; Goal: Taylor Lunde (Meridian) Assist: NA, Time: 46:00. Shots on goal: The Northwest School 3; Meridian 20. Saves: Katie Fallon (The Northwest School) 12; Sydney Gospodinovich (Meridian) 3.

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