Tied 1-1 at halftime, Ferndale’s girls’ soccer team had what Joe Gonzalez calls one of those “no joke” kind of talks.
And it worked.
The Golden Eagles recorded seven shots on goals to Stanwood’s one in the second half and knocked in two goals to win 3-1 in the Class 3A District Tournament consolation semifinal on Thursday, Nov. 6, at Civic Stadium.
“We played flat most of that first half, but that’s what it took for us to come together” Gonzalez said. “It’s now or never and the girls rose up to the occasion and actually came out and played a great second half of soccer, which is the one that counts.”
With the win, 2014 will go down as the greatest season in Ferndale girls’ soccer history.
The Golden Eagles have now won two district games for the first time ever and are just one win away from clinching the school’s first ever state berth.
“It’s absolutely 100 percent exciting,” Gonzalez said. “We just made history and I’m looking forward to making more.”
The Golden Eagles were a completely different team in the second half than they were in a unmotivated first half that started off so strong.
Only 80 seconds into the match a Jillian Monson cross found a Stanwood defender’s leg and ricocheted into the net to make it 1-0. It was the early goal the Golden Eagles have found so elusive in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“It was great,” Gonzalez said. “It looked like we were going to get off and running to the same way we played against Edmonds.”
But from then on, it was all Stanwood in the first half. The Spartans won nearly every 50-50 ball and recorded five shots on goal to Ferndale’s two.
In the 14th minute, Stanwood found the equalizer. Espy Sanchez found her way through the defense and put it past Ferndale goalkeeper Rachel Neher, who made four saves on the night.
“In the second half, we decided that we were going to win the ball and we were going to win the second ball,” Gonzalez said. “That’s the first part of it, if you don’t have the ball and you don’t win it, you can’t play your game.”
The suddenly fierce Golden Eagles quickly got the go-ahead goal.
In the 53rd minute, Christiana Salinas dribbled into the box sent it across and it looked for a second that Stanwood goalkeeper Kaitlin Larson was privy to the cross but it deflected off Larson and fell to the feet off Ferndale’s Katelyn Neher.
Neher passed it toward the net but it deflected off a defender. Neher followed up on it and got a foot on it to put in and make it 2-1.
“It was so exciting,” Neher said. “It’s so nice to score in districts.”
Neher’s goal came in a spot where Ferndale star forward Jordin Bartel usually capitalizes, which goes to show why Ferndale is having the season it’s having.
“It’s awesome. That’s what we ask out of all our players,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not a one-pony show. Let’s all get in there and scrap and get stuff happening.”
Salinas shook off a rough first half for the sophomore forward to get the assist.
“In the first half she was a little flat and she knew that and I pulled her off and she sat,” Gonzalez said. “I put her back on halfway though. That goal all came from her scrapping.”
Bartel secured the win in typical Bartel fashion, scoring her 22nd goal of the season in the 58th minute when Jazlynn Ahrens sent the ball down the field and on the first touch, Bartel hammered it past the keeper.
The Golden Eagles will face either Arlington or Mountlake Terrace on Saturday, Nov. 8, at Arlington High School. The winner of that game will move on to state, the loser will be eliminated.
“To just have this opportunity and play with this team is just so nice,” Katelyn Neher said. “It’d be so nice to go to state and win.”