BELLINGHAM - Anacortes' goals occured quickly and without warning.
It partially had to do with the wind being at the Seahawks' backs. Moving the ball up field through the air was an easy task. But another piece - possibly the most important - was the brief lapse in concentration by Bellingham's boys' soccer team that allowed Anacortes to take a lead in the 54th minute it wouldn't relinquish.
"Being outworked when it counted was their positive - their strength, and not really our demise, but what was the difference," Bellingham coach Matt Zigulis said. "We couldn't find that equalizer, or a goal, or even a shutout. We know we can play defense better."
Anacortes would tack on another goal before the Red Raiders' Keegan Nutt scored in the 78th minute, only inching closer to the eventual 2-1 Northwest Conference loss on Wednesday, April 23, at Northwest Soccer Park.
The game against the Seahawks (10-1-1, 7-0-1 NWC) presented a great opportunity for Bellingham (6-3-4, 5-3-1 NWC) to strengthen its push for one of the final playoffs spots in the 2A division. Following a 1-0 win over Sedro-Woolley on Monday, April 21, optimism was high within the Red Raider ranks, but as has been the problem all season for Zigulis and his club, they couldn't string two meaningful wins together.
"It's kind of the hangover," Zigulis said. "We play awesome and give everything the first game ... and then we don't have much left going into the second game of the week. It's not conditioning. I know these guys are fit. It's just a matter of mentally being prepared and ready, bringing yourself up to play 110 percent of the time."
Had Bellingham played in the second half as well as it did in the first, the Red Raiders would likely be looking at a vastly different outcome.
Bellingham outshot Anacortes 8-4 in the first half, with several chances being near-makes had it not been for some spectacular saves by the Seahawks' keeper Dane Lukasik.
Jacob Feingold sent a straight-on shot from 25 yards out in the 20th minute that Lukasik barely got a fist on to punch it over the crossbar and out of play. Just moments after on a corner, Bellingham again had a good look at the net but the shot sailed just inches to the left of the post.
As it was, the two teams went into halftime scoreless, with Bellingham keeper Logan Schilder rarely being called upon to make any difficult saves.
But how costly one momentary lapse in concentration can be.
Anacortes' first goal came in the 54th minute when a ball was played up to Takeo Nystrom along the left side. Nystrom centered the ball, navigating a few defenders in the process, to Ryan Burton who beat Schilder low and to the left.
"We weren't paying attention to the counter attack, and they were getting behind us," senior captain Lars Botterill said. "We weren't really paying attention and working as a unit."
Another goal in the 70th minute off the foot of Milan Kassa skidded off the hands of Schilder for what proved to be the winning goal.
Nutt's goal in the 78th minute off a cross from Noe Betancourt-Cruz was a well-placed shot into the left corner of the net. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late.
"Anacortes worked hard and got their opportunities and made the best of them, and we didn't make the best of ours," Zigulis said.
But despite the loss, Bellingham is still in play for one of the final 2A playoff positions. The Red Raiders' next game against Burlington-Edison on Tuesday, April 29, will largely define if they are playoff bound or not, given the Tigers, are also battling for that final spot.
The importance, Botterill said, isn't lost on his team.
"Just take that and roll with the punches, and remember that and bring it to the next game," he said, "that fire and that anger to the next game."
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
ANACORTES 2, BELLINGHAM 1
Goal: Ryan Burton (Anacortes); Assist: Takeo Nystrom; Time: 54; Goal: Milan Kassa (Anacortes) Time: 70; Goal: Keegan Nutt (Bellingham); Assist: Noe Betancourt-Cruz; Time: 78. Shots on goal: Bellingham: 14, Anacortes: 15; Goalies (Saves); Bellingham: Logan Schilder (10); Anacortes: Dane Lukasik (3).