It’s tough to tell which player will rise to the occasion when a big moment presents itself in the postseason. In the Class 1A Northwest District loser-out game between Mount Baker and Lynden Christian on Saturday, Nov. 1, at Whatcom Community College’s Orca Field, it came down to Baker’s Gabrielle Mata and Lynden Christian’s Kaitlyn Heeringa.
With the Mountaineers leading 3-2 in a shootout, Mata lined up for the kick, not realizing that she could finish the game.
“I thought someone else was going to go,” Mata, a freshman, said. “I got really nervous, but we have a goalie who helps us out and I scored on him (in practice), and my teammates said, ‘You scored on him, so you can score on this girl.’”
She aimed for the top right corner after the three previous Mountaineers had scored lower left, and a diving Heeringa’s outstretched hand came up just short.
The 4-2 shootout gave Mount Baker a 2-1 win and the fourth seed going into Bi-District next week. The Mountaineers will take on Bear Creek on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at Marymoor Park in Seattle.
“It felt really good because last year we played LC (in the District Tournament) and it came down to us,” Lacey Postlewait said. “We didn’t give it our all. This year we went out and played together. We’ve come a long way from the start of the season, so it felt good to come out on top this year.”
The Lyncs had the Mountaineers’ number during the regular season this year, too, with 5-1 and 3-0 wins.
“(The coaches) told us that they don’t like us and they took our team out last year,” Mata said. “They said prove to yourselves that you’re better than them.”
The two teams battled back and forth in the first half, with Lynden Christian gaining a slight advantage. The Lyncs controlled the majority of possession, but were repeatedly unable to find a way through the Baker defense.
“We put a lot of pressure on them, like not letting them get the ball right when they passed it to each other,” Mata said.
That pressure was reciprocated by LC, led by senior defender Sara Dougan, who asserted herself as in charge on the field, telling teammates where to be and where the Mountaineers’ attackers were going.
She also took the free kicks and corners, one of which the Lyncs capitalized on.
On a corner kick in the 34th minute, Dougan launched a ball to the near post that found Haley Hollander. Hollander volleyed the ball into the upper right corner, just out of Alexandra Whitson’s diving reach.
“Her career in general, she’s just a wall back there,” Lynden Christian coach Brent De Ruyter said. “She’s such a fighter and for her size, the way she moves and is able to distribute the ball is incredible. And she leads people, truly leads people, not just her four in the back, but just our team. She’s going to be greatly missed.”
But Mount Baker came out aggressive in the second half, pressuring the Lyncs’ attackers even more and pushing the ball upfield. Dougan and the LC back line held strong, but a brief miscommunication in the second minute of the half led to a ball getting bounced around between Baker forwards and LC defenders in the middle of the box. The ball was deflected out to the right to Postlewait, who kicked it into a wide open right half of the net.
“I just know that we need to as a team finish the ball, so the only thing i was thinking was get the ball into the net,” Postlewait said.
She was available to help out on the attack because of an adjustment the Mountaineers had made at halftime.
“We took another person out of midfield, so we only played two in the middle of the park and threw one of our mids up top,” Mount Baker coach Jason Jorgensen said. “We closed down their long balls and her having the ability to play out of the back, that allowed us to get a goal right away in the second half. We kept that pressure up, which kind of allowed us to get into the PKs there.”
Lynden Christian had a couple of good chances to get a late game-winner in regulation, including a Dougan free kick attempt that was just inches over the crossbar. Shaye Brandsma tried to end it as she dribbled right to draw Whitson off her line, but Brandsma’s low, rolling shot was just too far left.
The final play of regulation was indicative of how tough Mount Baker’s defenders played the Lynden Christian forwards all game. As Hollander tried to make a run past Baker’s Molly Lynch at the top of the box, Lynch turned and jockeyed for position with Hollander as she drove into the right side of the box. Both girls went down as they leaned in on each other to establish position, but the referee ended regulation before either team would get another chance on goal.
Each team controlled a half of extra time, but neither team had a chance to gain an edge. Lynden Christian’s Hollander and Brandsma scored in the shootout, with Madi Hallberg’s shot going over the goal and Katie Dougan’s shot going just wide right off the post. Jessica Mata, Amanda Evans and Marissa Scoville all scored in the shootout for Baker before Gabrielle Mata’s game-winning shootout goal.
Mount Baker 2, Lynden Christian 1 (SO)