BELLINGHAM - Tears streamed down faces and players consoled each other as the heartbreak signaling the end of the season sunk in for the Meridian girls' soccer team.
The Trojans fell to Seattle Academy 3-0 on Saturday, Nov. 16, in a Class 1A State Playoffs quarterfinal at Civic Stadium.
Seattle Academy got off on the right foot, as Meridian struggled to string passes together. In the third minute, Tayla MacPherson found space in the middle of the field and ripped a shot from 30 yards out.
The ball hit the crossbar, bounced straight down and then hit the backside of Trojans goalkeeper Sydney Gospodinovich and trickled into the goal.
Moments later, a whistle was blown. Players on both sides, fans and coaches were confused as the referee signaled for a penalty kick. It was later explained that the call was for a handball.
Sofia Barsher took the penalty kick and slammed into the side netting and Seattle Academy was up 2-0.
"There were some weird things that happened," Meridian coach Andrea Ames said. "There was a handball call that none of us saw. Things like that you just can't control."
Seattle Academy continued to dominate the early proceedings, firing shot after shot. Meridian continued to clear the ball, but couldn't keep possession and Seattle Academy continued to put pressure on the Trojans.
Gospodinovich came up big in the 10th minute with a calm and collected save on a hard shot by Mireya Grey from eight yards away.
The Trojans looked like they might pull closer, when Ryley Zapien sidestepped a defender and played a through ball to Taylor Lunde. Lunde tried to slide it by the goalkeeper, who was charging the ball, but the shot sailed high.
Meridian appeared to be motivated by the play and kept possession for several minutes at a time through the middle part of the first half, but the Trojans were unable to generate any real threat.
"We have played like that a lot this season," Ames said. "When we ping the ball around, we play really good soccer. Unfortunately we were a little off today early on."
The second half started the same way as the first, with a Seattle Academy goal. Margaret Sneeringer smashed it into the side netting in the 44th minute after a pass from Grey to put Seattle Academy up 3-0.
The play started with a corner kick that was almost headed in by Sneeringer, but was cleared by the Trojans. Seattle Academy played it right back in and found the net on the second opportunity.
Grey continued to make things happen throughout the second half and wreak havoc on the back line, but the Trojans thwarted any chance she got.
Grey's best chance came in the 52nd minute when a punt from goalkeeper Emily Mark sailed over everyone's head and Grey ran onto it and fired a shot that hit the post and bounced away.
She found space again in the 59th minute after winning the ball from Meridian. She almost put it past the goalkeeper but it went just wide.
One minute later, Grey beat everyone again, but Gospodinovich came off her line to stop any chance of scoring.
"I think the defense handled it well," Ames said. "They have two very good forwards, but the back line held them off very well and Sydney (Gospodinovich) coming off her line was great."
Meridian looked like it might make the game exciting with a flurry of shots in the 63rd minute, but it was not the Trojans' day.
"I'm proud of them," Ames said. "They have played great soccer all year. They didn't quit today when things didn't go their way early on. They all battled to the whistle and that's what you want."
Meridian's season is over, but Seattle Academy moves on to face the winner between Eatonville and King's. The game will be played at Shoreline Stadium on Friday, Nov. 22.
SEATTLE ACADEMY 3, MERIDIAN 0
Goal: Tayla MacPherson (SA), time: 3; Goal: Sofia Barsher (SA), time: 5; Goal: Margaret Sneeringer (SA), assist Mireya Grey: time: 44. Shots on goal: Seattle Academy 7; Meridian 8. Goalies (saves) Seattle Academy: Emily Mark (8); Meridian: Sydney Gospodinovich (4).