Meridian girls’ soccer coach Terri Tigert admits her team was a little disappointed when it learned its Class 1A state quarterfinal against King’s on Saturday, Nov. 15, was scheduled to be played at Civic Stadium.
With the exception of a couple of district and tri-district victories, Civic has not been so kind to the Trojans since Tigert was suiting up for the team.
“I know we were hoping to get Whatcom (Community College),” Tigert said. “This is a big field, but Whatcom’s a big field, too. I think mentally thinking every time we play King’s it’s here. I think this year, mentally, it just kind of got to us.”
There were no gremlins on Saturday. No seams in the field to trip up anybody. And really, very few bad bounces.
But there was King’s — a team that has only one loss in 2014.
And that was more than enough to prolong Meridian’s bad feelings at Civic, as the Knights scored a pair of goals in the first 11 minutes and put the clamps on the Trojans’ offense in a 2-0 win.
The loss marked the second straight year the Trojans (11-7-2) saw their season come to a close in the state quarterfinals at Civic, continuing the precedent of last year’s 3-0 loss to Seattle Academy.
“We weren’t stepping; we were late on the marking,” Tigert said. “King’s came out wanting it a little more than we did. Just the lack of marking. I don’t think we were expecting them to come out fighting as hard. But you know, every game we should be expecting that.”
And because of that, Meridian found itself in a hole before it had even broken a sweat on a chilly, yet sun-drenched afternoon at Civic.
Less than four minutes in, Katie Stella’s second-chance goal following Sydney Gospodinovich’s save on a shot by Jubilee Zevenbergen off a corner kick put the Knights on top 1-0.
Seven minutes later Anna Parker found the back of the net following a free kick, making it 2-0, which was more than enough for the Knights, who pitched their 16th shutout of the season.
Meridian’s chances to claw back into the game were few and far between.
In the 28th minute, Lexi McKinnon broke free and found herself one-on-one with King’s goalie Madie Nielson. McKinnon made a beautiful chip over Nielson, but the ghosts of Civic seemingly willed the ball to bounce off the crossbar.
Other than that, the Trojans’ only other serious scoring threats came in the 49th minute with a pair of Payton Lunde drives up the left side. On the first, Nielson made a nice save, and Meridian didn’t have anyone else push up far enough to put the rebound home. The second ended with Lunde being taken down by a sliding tackle in the box that wasn’t called a foul, and the ball rolled across the end line for a goal kick.
But that was about it, as Meridian was out shot 13-2.
“With King’s forwards, their attack, really pressuring hard on our defense, I think it was making us a little more frantic — not being able to compose ourselves, get it to our feet, settle it, find feet, get our heads up,” Tigert said. “I think being pressured super hard made it harder for us to stay composed and get the ball up.”
Saturday’s game was a completely different story from the Class 1A Northwest District championship game two weeks earlier, when Meridian had the Knights on the ropes before falling in a shootout.
The Trojans’ familiarity with King’s actually might have been the difference, Tigert said.
“I think the unknown (the first time) helped us — coming in not knowing how King’s was going to play, not knowing their style of players, not having the game film.,” Tigert said. “Coming in this time, knowing how they play, I think how the girls came into this game might have been different. That unknown the first game is kind of different, then when you know what to expect this second game.”
Though Meridian will graduate six seniors listed on its state roster, they should return a strong core next year.
“That’s why I’m super excited,” Tigert said. “We’re going to lose a lot. I mean Janessa Murphy and Lexi McKinnon, defense — two strong defenders in the back and then the midfield. But we do have a young team, and we’re going to come out working hard next year to fill those positions and there are going to be girls fighting for them.”
King’s 2, Meridian 0