Those poor, poor crossbars.
A distinct metal clang echoed on numerous occasions throughout the open field at Ferndale High School, evidence of the amount of times the Meridian and Ferndale girls’ soccer teams came just inches away from capturing a hand up on one another.
Instead, two of the top programs in the Northwest Conference had to accept a 1-1 tie Thursday, Oct. 16, as dissatisfying a result as that was for both.
“I don’t like to not win,” Ferndale coach Joe Gonzalez said. “The team wants to win. They are battling to try to win. They are a competitive team — we are a competitive team. We want to win.”
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Meridian’s sophomore keeper Sydney Gospodinovich echoed Gonzalez’s sentiment: “I’m not really happy with a tie. I know we played well. I’m happy with the way we played, just not the outcome.”
It was Gospodinovich’s play in net, though, that prevented Ferndale from running away with a game the Golden Eagles largely dominated.
In the first half alone Ferndale held an 11-2 advantage in shots on goal, Gospodinovich getting tested immediately when Jordin Bartel — one of the top scorers in the conference with 14 goals — rifled a shot forcing the Meridian keeper to make a diving grab.
Just minutes later Jalissa Somers pounded a shot off the Trojans’ frame, beginning what was a common trend throughout the afternoon: Ferndale abusing Meridian’s goal.
Gospodinovich even left a bit of herself on the battered frame when she dove for a Bartel shot, not seeing the post and smacking her shoulder and head into the metal post.
“I dove and it’s really muddy back there, so I think I slipped when I was going for the ball,” she said. “It didn’t feel good.”
The sophomore would again deny Bartel in the waning moments of the first half, keeping it scoreless until Jazlynn Ahrens struck a shot from 30 yards out that went just beyond the reach of the Trojans’ standout goalie in the 56th minute.
Meridian’s offense showed more fluidity in the second half, connecting in the midfield and pressuring Ferndale’s backline on several occasions. The Trojans finally broke through in the 65th minute when sophomore midfielder Ryley Zapien flicked a header into the left corner of the net, passed Rachel Neher.
Despite being severly outplayed up until that point, Meridian coach Terry Tigert was pleased to see the grit her team displayed in the latter part of the matchup.
“I stepped back this game to let them bond a little bit,” Tigert said. “The seniors stepped up. They just pretty much told them, ‘We’re in this game. We’re not losing.’”
The final 10 minutes had a tempo and pace unlike the previous 70 for both teams, the Golden Eagles and Trojans trading offensive possessions in each others defensive-third.
Zapien let loose an open shot in the 75th minute that rose just over the top crossbar, minutes earlier Ferndale’s Paige Devine clanging a shot off top post.
The most dangerous attempt came from the Golden Eagles’ Katelyn Neher in the 71st minute, drawing Gonzalez to bellow out, “it’s in, it’s in!” when she flicked a shot through traffic that looked destined for the open space in Meridian’s net.
Gospodinovich ranged quickly to her right, forcing the Ferndale coach to retract his words.
“We had the ball on target so many times,” Gonzalez said. “Just great keeping and our placement needs to be a little better. ... We surely should have won this game.”
In all, Gospodinovich recorded 15 saves, many of which forced her to break from goal and aggressively attack Ferndale’s forwards.
A welcome sight for Tigert, although not so much for the rest of the NWC.
“Lately, during the season she has been hesitant on coming out of her box a little bit and attacking the ball,” Tigert said, “but lately she’s been doing a great job attacking players who were dribbling 1-on-1. ... We’ve been pushing for her to do that and she definitely did that this game.”
Both Ferndale (7-4-2, NWC 6-2-1) and Meridian (7-3-2, 5-2-2) are back in action Tuesday, Oct. 21, with the Trojans hosting league-leading Squalicum and the Golden Eagles traveling to Mount Baker.
Ferndale 1, Meridian 1
Goal: Jazlynn Ahrens (Ferndale), assist: NA, time 56:00; Goal: Ryley Zapien (Meridian), assist: NA, time 65:00. Goalies (saves) — Meridian: Sydney Gospodinovich (15); Meridian: Rachel Neher (5). Shots on goal — Meridian 9, Ferndale 22.