Playoff soccer hits full swing on Saturday. Here’s a list of the Whatcom County teams playing this weekend:
Meridian vs. Sultan — Class 1A Northwest District Tournament loser-out game at 1 p.m. at Sultan High School. The winner will move on to the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament.
Sehome vs. Squalicum — Class 2A Northwest District Tournament opening round game at 6 p.m. at Whatcom Community College. Winner moves to district semifinal, loser goes to consolation bracket and has to win two games to make state.
Lynden Christian vs. Nooksack Valley — Class 1A Northwest District Tournament loser-out game at 8 p.m. at Whatcom Community College. The winner will move to the Class 1A Bi-District Tournament.
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Ferndale — Potentially has a game in the Class 3A Northwest District Tournament against Glacier Peak, but Seed 8 is still unlisted on the Washington Prep Athletics site.
With three games (possibly four) having so much on the line, here’s five things you should know:
1. Squalicum knows the ropes (and is probably the favorite). This is a team that’s been here year after year. The Storm is coming off a state title, hasn’t lost since May 7, 2013 and might be playing its best soccer of the season right now. The Storm have myriad weapons — four different players have seven or more goals — and has the best defense in the Northwest Conference. It’s looking like another state title run is entirely within the realm of possibility (or maybe even probability).
2. Never count Sehome out. The Mariners barely got into the playoffs after struggling for a good part of the middle of the season as they battled injuries. Zach Wanne is back in the lineup, Sehome is finally getting goals and the Mariners haven’t lost since April 14. Sehome came within a game of making state last year and this team is just as talented, if not more so. The Mariners are also one of the few teams to blemish Squalicum’s season. Of the Storm’s three draws, Sehome was the opponent in two of them.
3. Nooksack Valley has its back against the wall. Coach Valentin Villalobos said it perfectly after Wednesday’s loss to King’s. “They worked hard to get where they are right now and it’s more frustrating because they lost an entire season in 40 minutes.” Now, the Pioneers are in the same position as Lynden Christian and the Lyncs have been in this spot before while Nooksack hasn’t. What the Pioneers have going for them is talent and athleticism. LC will put up a stingy fight but if Nooskack eliminates the mental mistakes, it should take home a victory.
4. Lynden Christian tougher than meets the eye. Sure, Nooksack Valley has topped the Lyncs twice. But the conference game was a 2-1 narrow victory. This is going to be a very interesting game primarily because of the Lyncs defense. They’ve only allowed 13 goals in their last nine games. The Pioneers’ offense is very athletic and skilled so the Lyncs will have their hands full. I don’t see them allowing more than two goals so the key will be finding an attack. It’s been seven games since the last time LC scored more than one goal in a game. Cody Fransen is back in the lineup now and the Lyncs hope he can be the difference-maker up top.
5. Jake Birnel needs big game for Meridian. Birnel has a team-high nine goals on the year. Offensively, Meridian is not too shabby despite only having three wins on the season. But against King’s, that offense couldn’t find the net. Sultan isn’t the best defensive team, having allowed more three or more goals in half the its games. If Birnel catches fire and makes things happen, he could score one or two and create opportunities for Alan Eyoub and Jordan Birnel. It’s going to be tough for the Trojans to avoid elimination but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a win.