There are statement wins and then there is what Nooksack Valley’s boys’ soccer team did.
After tallying just four wins last season, the Pioneers were showing promise through the first nine games of the season. They had a 7-2 record but one thing was missing — a win against a top-tier opponent.
Nooksack’s two losses were to Squalicum and Bellingham — both 2-0 defeats.
Then on Wednesday, March 8, Sehome made the trip to Everson to take on the Pioneers and found out why Nooksack can’t be taken lightly, as the Pioneers cruised to a 5-1 Northwest Conference victory.
“For us, it was huge,” Nooksack coach Valentin Villalobos said. “Nooksack hasn’t had a season like this in a very long time.”
And the season is only 10 games in, but the Pioneers’ eyes are on big things and Wednesday was a great reason why.
From the get-go, Nooksack (8-2-0, 4-2-0 NWC) was the aggressor. Sehome’s staple is defense but the Pioneers found gaps in the opening minutes.
The tactic was simple — get the ball to a winger and send in a through ball to central forward Luke VanWingerden before the Mariners’ intimidating defense could set up.
VanWingerden didn’t take long to capitalize. In the 10th minute, he slotted home a through ball from David Flores and then five minutes later was on the winning end of a scramble in the box, as he pounded another one home to make it a shocking 2-0 less than a quarter way through the game.
“The defense really left me open,” VanWingerden said. “I usually have one or two guys on me, man to man. They just left me open and I got through balls from teammates and I was able to put them away.”
Tactics only go so far, though, and Wednesday was about more than what the coaches drew up and Sehome (3-3-3, 2-2-2 NWC) coach John Sylvester took notice.
“I don’t think we were really prepared for them to be quite as organized and enthusiastic as they were,” Sylvester said. “They were very well organized, really believed in themselves, moved the ball really well. ... It’s our Spring Break and I think we played a little lethargic. They played like a team with heart; they wanted it more.”
Sehome had a ray of hope come in the form of a goal two minutes into the second half, as a great combination passing play resulted in a wide-open Samuel Pacheco-Rodriguez, who found the net with ease to make it 2-1.
But Nooskack put a stop to any comeback just two minutes later, as VanWingerden, who Sylvester noted played an excellent game and should be on the All-Northwest Conference team, completed his hat trick when he stole a rebound from goalkeeper Devan Trueb and put it in the net.
Flores capped it off with two rocket shots late in the game to secure the victory.
“We came out really hard because we knew it’d be really tough,” VanWingerden said. “We didn’t expect this to happen but we just played real hard, got some good passes and found ways to score.”
And they did it against arguably the best defense in the league. Sehome had only allowed seven goals in the previous five conference games.
While some of the goals Wednesday can be attributed to odd bounces or Sehome’s desire to shift the formation in an effort to score more once the Mariners got behind, it really boils down to heart, Sylvester said.
“One of our team members said, ‘It’s not just what you do under the lights of Civic Stadium, it’s what you do day-to-day,’” Sylvester said. “We didn’t have that commitment today. ... We have the skill, we have the ability ... but we need to do a gut check and lift the heart up and realize that it’s our commitment to each other each game that matters.”
As for the Pioneers, don’t expect them to go away anytime soon. The Pioneers are loaded with seniors in what may be the best team in Nooksack Valley history.
“They’re really motivated. They want to graduate this year and put history on Nooksack soccer,” Villalobos said. “That’s why every single guy is giving everything they have. ... They know if they try harder, they’ll get a prize at the end, which is a W.”
Nooksack will take that effort into its Tuesday, April 14, matchup with Lynden, while Sehome will face Sedro-Woolley on the same day.
Nooksack Valley 5, Sehome 1
Goal: Luke VanWingerden (Nooksack Valley), assist: David Flores, time 10; Goal: Luke VanWingerden (Nooksack Valley), time 15; Goal: Samuel Pacheco-Rodriguez (Sehome), assist: Kevin Sun, time 42; Goal: Luke VanWingerden (Nooksack Valley), assist: Luis Garcia, time 44; Goal: David Flores (Nooksack Valley), time: 62; Goal: David Flores (Nooksack Valley), time: 79. Goalies (saves) — Sehome: Max Diehl (1), Devan Trueb (5); Nooksack Valley: Levi VanWingerden (10). Shots on goal — Sehome 11, Nooksack Valley 11.