FERNDALE - The Whatcom FC "Iron Girls" have been frustrated despite solid showings in their first two soccer tournaments, but they have proven their level of fitness and their defense are both first rate.
"We're definitely the 'Iron Girls' for now," standout striker Jordin Bartel said following her team's 1-0 loss to Skagit County's Northwest United in the Under-17/19 championship match of the annual Baker Blast on Sunday, June 29, at Northwest Soccer Park.
"We're all pretty fit," said Bartel of her team, which had only one substitute for the tournament after playing with just two reserves the previous weekend while losing in the semifinals of the Crossfire Challenge in Redmond.
That was an understatement. In all, the "Iron Girls" - all but one of whom are Whatcom County athletes - won 6, lost 2 and tied 1 in a remarkable nine-game showing of endurance over a 10-day span. That included two games Sunday to open the summer season in the wake of a productive State Level One spring schedule.
"It's definitely exhausting but it shows we can rely on each other," said Jacqueline Dierdorff, who along with Hattie North, Mia Hodges and Sarah Hulbert provided consistently reliable backline defense throughout the wearying weekend.
"Last weekend we played four 90-minute games (while going 2-1-1), and this weekend we had five 60-minute games (while going 4-1 and outscoring opponents by a combined 14-3)," Dierdorff said. "It's a trust thing to put in all that work together."
Quick midfielder Sarah Byron wasn't discouraged after such a strong showing in the three-day, eight-team tournament.
"I'm proud of every single one of us, regardless of the score. This was pretty hard soccer," Byron said. "We have nothing to be ashamed of. It was really close. I don't think we've ever played tournaments on consecutive weekends (in recent years)."
"That is rare (to play high-caliber tournaments on consecutive weekends)," said Dierdorff, who contributed to a 4-0 victory over Fusion FC in the semifinals Sunday morning. "But everyone played hard for each other."
Bartel and the other "Iron Girls" will get a rest during the Fourth of July week.
"Coach (Drew Smiley, who had to miss the game) is giving us the whole week off," said Bartel, who scored 30 goals in her first three seasons at Ferndale High. "I think we deserve it. Then we'll be playing in another tournament the next weekend (July 11-13)."
The U18 team expects to have a full roster by the time the girls, all but two of whom will be high school seniors, launch their bid to play at the national tournament in North Carolina.
The Rangers dominated the first half with an 8-0 shot advantage over Skagit Northwest United, a talented U16 team that played "up" for the tournament.
The late afternoon heat and lack of multiple Rangers substitutes - the Skagit team had four reserves available - eventually helped wear down Whatcom. Northwest United took advantage with less than eight minutes remaining when Bailey Post found herself in position to make a powerful drive and equally powerful goal.
Rangers goalkeeper Natalie Robinson, an Archbishop Murphy athlete, was not called to make a save in the first half but had three in the second half.
The other "Iron Girls" Rangers who contributed to the second-place finish included Julia DeVere, Kate Peterson, Michelle Saunders, Victoria VandeHoef and Sabrina Wilk.
Bartel said she's having fun in the girls' last season together. Most of the team has been together since sixth grade.
"We're one of the closest teams in Whatcom County," she said. "We're like sisters. It's really fun."
Two other Rangers teams claimed Premier Division girls' titles. The U12 Rangers beat Coquitlam Metro 3-2 as Kianna Johnson scored the winning goal in the second overtime, and the U15 Rangers defeated TOFC 1-0.
The only Rangers Premier Division boys' team to win a title was the U17/19 team, which beat LHSC 3-0 in a morning game Sunday. That division had four teams and The Rangers went 3-0-1 for the tournament with four shutouts.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.