EVERSON — Playing for the fourth time in six days, Meridian got a 4-0 win over Nooksack Valley on Saturday by digging deep and fighting fatigue more than showing skill.
With every game becoming more important than the last, the Trojans — who tied with Granite Falls on April 17, lost 3-1 to Ferndale on April 18 and beat Blaine 1-0 on April 21 — overcame a sluggish start that was in large part due to the number of minutes the team had logged in such a short stretch.
“Honestly, the boys were tired,” Meridian head coach Joe Spencer said. “We didn’t come out with the pace or intensity at the beginning of the game, but we broke through at the end.”
In dealing with such a busy week, Spencer said the most important thing is “avoiding injuries” and being “smart about rotating players.” Luckily for the Trojans, they came out unscathed from Saturday’s win.
Meridian had a multitude of scoring opportunities in the first half, but every shot was off the mark until senior midfielder Jordan Birnel broke the scoreless tie with a goal in the 36th minute.
“Jordan’s started for me since he was a freshman,” Spencer said. “He understands what I need and what I want (on the field). He plays hard and puts himself in good positions and situations.”
Following a goal by sophomore forward Ernan Martinez in the second half, Birnel would add another goal to make the score 3-0. The Trojans added a meaningless goal late — sophomore midfielder Carlos Padila Solis found the net this time — to make the final result appear more lopsided than it felt.
Despite a game effort from Nooksack Valley, the Pioneers had trouble generating much of an offensive threat throughout the game.
“This was an important win because we want the number one seed for the 1A’s,” Spencer explained. “We’re continuing to put ourselves in a good position to clinch that spot.”
Meridian (7-5-2, 6-4-1 Northwest Conference) leads Mount Baker (5-7-1, 5-5-1 NWC) in the race for first place among the league’s 1A schools with just two games remaining. The Trojans beat the Mounties 6-1 back on March 21, further strengthening their odds of clinching the top spot.
The Trojans hosted Sehome on Tuesday, losing 3-0, and finish the regular campaign at Anacortes on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Three of the conference’s four 1A schools will qualify for the District 1 tournament, which begins on May 1 and features schools from the Northwest and Cascade conferences.
Meridian and Mount Baker are guaranteed to qualify for the postseason while it appears likely that Lynden Christian (2-9-2, 1-8-2 NWC) will secure the third position.
The top seed out of the conference earns a first-round bye and would only need one victory to advance to the bi-district round. The other teams will need at least two, potentially three wins to advance out of the district tourney, which sends four teams to bi-districts on May 9-13.
The finals for the district tournament take place on Saturday, May 6, at Whatcom Community College.
The top four teams from the eight-team bi-district tournament will move on to the state tournament, which begins on May 15.
Boys soccer roundup
Lynden 7, Nooksack Valley 0
EVERSON — Lynden (10-2-1, 8-1-1 NWC) was at Lakewood on Tuesday, winning 5-1. The Lions finish the season with home games against Sedro-Woolley on Thursday and Bellingham on Monday. Both contests kick off at 4 p.m. at Bender Fields.
Lynden and Bellingham are currently tied for second (first among 2A schools) in the Northwest Conference.
Ferndale 3, Lynden Christian 2
Mount Baker 5, Sedro-Woolley 1
Mount Baker 4, Lynden Christian 1
DEMING — The Mounties won for the first time in their last five games by beating the Lyncs in a key conference game on Saturday.
Mount Baker stayed alive in the race for the top spot among the NWC 1A schools with the win.
The Mountaineers were at Squalicum on Tuesday, losing 7-0. Baker concludes the regular season at home against Bellingham on Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
Lynden Christian hosted Blaine on Tuesday, losing 3-2. The Lyncs wrap up the season at Civic Stadium against Sehome on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.