High School Soccer

Whatcom County girls soccer teams hope to follow Squalicum’s 2015 championship lead

Meridian goalie Sydney Gospodinovich makes a diving save against Ferndale in 2013.
Meridian goalie Sydney Gospodinovich makes a diving save against Ferndale in 2013. The Bellingham Herald

Whatcom County girls’ soccer teams begin play Tuesday, Sept. 6. Here’s a capsule look at each team, as it prepares for the 2016 season:

Bellingham

Bellingham Red Raiders

Coach: Mark Wright

Key players: Peyton Schwinger (F, Jr.), Kayla Heidenrich (M, Sr.), Kylie Mitchell (M, Sr.), Alli Krell (M, Jr.)

Outlook: The Red Raiders won nine regular-season matches in 2015, then fell in the second round of the 2A Northwest District Tournament. This season, the Red Raiders will return most of their attacking players, according to Wright. Bellingham is still trying to figure out its lines in the midfield and in the back, but Wright said he’s positive the back line will be a nice surprise. “The back group is really young,” Wright said. “But, they’re super athletic and I feel good about them heading into 2016.”

Blaine

Blaine Borderites

Coach: Kelly Tuski

Key players: Kayla Miller (D, Jr.), Tessa Kelly (GK, Jr.), Brooke Giffen (D, Sr.)

Outlook: After a tough 2015 season, Tuski and the Borderites are feeling confident. “We’ve got off to a really good start in practices,” Tuski said. “The girls are really unified and are looking forward to the start of the season.” Tuski said there are still girls competing hard for varsity roster spots, and that they will be a defensively oriented team.

Ferndale

Ferndale Golden Eagles

Coach: Rigel White

Key players: Kate Neaher (F, Sr.), Paige Devine (M, Jr.), Alexandra McBeth (D, Jr.), Christiana Salinas (M, Sr.)

Outlook: After a solid 2015 season, the Golden Eagles are looking forward to 2016 with a new coach at the helm. White takes over the program and said he’s excited to see the improvement of the girls he coached last season as an assistant. “We had a good, strong group that has a chunk of players returning,” White said. Their goal is to qualify for the 3A Northwest District Tournament.

Lynden

Lynden Lions

Coach: Carlos Melendez

Players to watch: Ali Van Zanten (D, So.), Peyton Fullner (M, Sr.), Sierra Smith (F, Jr.)

Outlook: The Lions will build off 2015, with eight returning starters from the squad that advanced to the 2A Northwest District Tournament for the first time in school history. The team is still in search of a goalkeeper. “Finding a goalie will be big for us,” Melendez said. Once they decide who will start in goal, the Lions plan to once again rely heavily on their defense. “We will be able to build off of our defense,” Melendez said. The Lions will lean on sophomore defender Van Zanten to lead the defense, while senior midfielder Fullner will be an integral cog to the midfield. The Lions will rely on junior forward Smith as their main source of offense.

LC

Lynden Christian Lyncs

Coach: Brent De Ruyter

Key players: Kait Heeringa (GK, Sr.), Libby Hielkema (M, So.), Emily Roetcisoender (M, Jr.)

Outlook: De Ruyter said he’s excited to see his team in action. He said there are tough calls on varsity roster spots and his team is competing every day. “This is probably one of the most balanced teams I’ve had in 11 years, barring injuries,” De Ruyter said. “The girls love playing with each other, and this season really means something to them at this point.” One player De Ruyter had high praise for was Hielkema. “She is one of the best young players in program ever,” De Ruyter said.

Meridian

Meridan Trojans

Coach: Terri Tigert

Key players: Ryley Zapien (M, Sr.), Micaela Pimento (F, Sr.), Sydney Gospodinovich (GK, Sr.)

Outlook: After a 2015 season that was composed of two completely different halves, the Trojans are looking strong. Meridian started 2015 with a seven consecutive wins but went 2-8 the next 10 games and limped into the playoffs before losing to King’s in the second round. Meridian will have three key seniors return. Zapien will be the glue, while Pimento will lead the attack and Gospondinovich will anchor the defense in goal.

Mount Baker

Mount Baker Mountaineers

Coach: Jason Jorgensen

Key players: Molly Lynch (D, Sr.), Michelle Mata (F, Jr.), Gabbie Mata (F, Jr.), Bree Hesyck (F, Jr.)

Outlook: Jorgensen and his team are feeling great about a new opportunity. “The girls are competing out there every day and working hard,” Jorgensen said. “They’re ready to tackle the 1A conference and aim for a playoff spot and a trip to state.” These are high expectations after a losing season in 2015, when the Mountaineers lost 10 matches. But Jorgensen thinks team unity will be a major key to success.

Nooksack Valley

Nooksack Valley Pioneers

Coach: Kevin Rus

Key players: Chloe Cowman (M, So.), Sabrina Macy (D, So.), Courtney Haak (F, Sr.)

Outlook: The Pioneers struggled in 2015, not winning a game. This season could prove to be arduous, as well, as the Pioneers will field a young team that only has four seniors. “Right now, it’s hard to tell what we’re looking like for 2016,” Rus said. “Athletically, we have more speed than in the past, so that should help us.” Even with more speed, Rus is a bit worried about the youth of his team. “It’s hard to see the transition of sophomores that will play against 18-year-olds this season,” he said. But Rus said the team still feels positive about the season and says the youth could have a positive impact.

Sehome

Sehome Mariners

Coach: Andria Fountain

Key players: Christina Funk (M, Sr.), Hannah Moore (F, So.), Anna Miller (M, So.)

Outlook: The Mariners return 12 varsity players after not making the playoffs for the first time in Fountain’s tenure. The defense will be Sehome’s most important unit, as it returns the most starters. “They really work together well as a unit,” Fountain said. “We feel pretty good heading into this season. We’re looking for redemption after last season.”

Squalicum

Squalicum Storm

Coach: Jose Rodriguez

Key players: Peyton Fowler (F, Sr.), Kendra Steele (M, Sr.), Caitelyn Stevenson (M, Sr.)

Outlook: In his first season as coach, Rodriguez inherits a team that won the 2015 2A state championship. This year, the Storm will compete for a 3A title after reclassification. “We’re excited for the opportunity to compete at a higher level,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez said his squad still has plenty of talent. Squalicum returns three key seniors in Fowler, Steele and Stevenson but also has new talent waiting to fill other positions. “There will be a couple of new faces filling at positions across the lineup,” Rodriguez said, “but overall, we feel really good, and the team is coming together nicely.”

Ben Goldstein

Spelling of Alli Krell and Rigel White corrected Sept. 6, 2016.

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