By Ian Ferguson
The Blaine girls soccer team showed confidence, control and overall improvement in a win at home against Anacortes.
The Borderites won the October 21 Northwest Conference (NWC) game 3–1. Outside midfielder Bianca Rodriguez led the team with two goals.
“I felt like our whole team was very supportive throughout the game,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been working hard in practice and that led to the win tonight.”
Blaine came out strong, dominating possession in the first half. The Borderites won most 50/50 balls cleanly and used triangle passing effectively to move the ball upfield. Senior captain Emily Roe in particular was a strong presence on defense in the first half.
Five minutes later, Roe passed to Rodriguez on the Blaine side near midfield, and Rodriguez outran the Anacortes defenders for a one-on-one with Anacortes keeper Tara Augustoni. Rodriguez rifled a shot low to the far post, and although Augustoni got her arm on the shot, the ball had more than enough momentum to carry it into the net.
Anacortes went on the attack immediately after the Blaine goal, with a sustained push in Blaine territory that led to three close shots and two excellent saves by Blaine keeper Tessa Kelly. Roe made a valiant effort to bring the ball out of the backfield, but Blaine’s midfield wasn’t moving up with her on her first attempt. Senior captain Gretchen Kordas shouted to push the Borderites out of their zone, which helped them transition from defense to offense.
Blaine head coach Kelly Tuski said she was happy to see good communication from her team.
“They know that communication is one of the biggest keys of the game, and it was nice to see that in action,” Tuski said.
Once the Borderites pushed up on offense, they were able to control the game. Kordas and Quesada used a give-and-go followed by a nice through ball from Kordas that sent Quesada off running towards the corner. Quesada beat her defender to the outside and dribbled in for a low-angle shot that she ripped towards the near post. Augustoni got a hand on it, and the ball was bouncing into the net when Rodriguez ran on to seal the goal, but she accidentally hit the ball with her upper arm and the referee called a handball before the ball crossed the line.
Minutes later, Quesada had an opportunity with a bouncing ball in front of the net but her shot went over the top post. Blaine immediately brought the ball up for another opportunity with a cross to Mackenna Magner, who shot just wide of the net. The half ended with Blaine firmly in control of the match and Anacortes lucky to be down by only one goal.
Anacortes turned on the pressure in the second half. A series of throw-ins deep in Blaine territory led to a good shot on goal and a great save by Kelly. Anacortes maintained a majority of possession early in the half, but a quick transition by the Blaine midfielders led to a two-on-one in front of the Anacortes net. Quesada passed to Roe, who reacted quickly to put the ball in behind the Anacortes keeper. Roe’s goal came in the 48th minute.
Down by two goals, Anacortes again increased the pressure and had two very close scoring opportunities, both of which led to brilliant saves by Kelly. Blaine tried to send balls up to forwards to give the defense a break, but off-sides calls consistently brought the ball back, as Quesada’s quickness led to some close calls at the line of the last defender.
With continuous pressure for much of the second half, Anacortes finally scored on a great pass to Jazmine Farrell, who put in a solid near-post shot on the ground.
Play began to even out as the second half wore on, with the Blaine defense doing a good job of sweeping the ball to the outside and away from dangerous territory. Strong wind gusts could have been a factor in the game, but Blaine defender Caylie Sharp said the Borderites accounted for the wind in their strategy.
“We worked on keeping our passes on the ground and swinging the ball on defense to get it up the field,” Sharp said
Swinging the ball on defense led to a two-on-one opportunity for Quesada and Rodriguez late in the game. Rodriguez burned her defenders to get to an excellent pass from Quesada, and scored the final goal of the game in the 64th minute.
“We moved Bianca [Rodriguez] to outside mid and she’s done a great job,” Tuski said. “She’s one of the fastest players on the team.”
Blaine continued its strong play until the end of the game, and the Borderites earned their first NWC win of the season.
“It feels good to get the win at home,” Tuski said. “Our girls clearly put everything they had on the field. Some girls played coming off of injuries and sickness, and they played strong the whole way through. I’m proud of every one of them.”
Forward Caitlyn Sharp said she was happy to see her team doing a better job in transitioning from defense to offense.
“We’ve been working hard on that all year, and it showed today,” she said.
Communication was one of the biggest factors of the Blaine win, as every player could be heard talking to her teammates.
“I think the talking helped a lot. It helped us know where everyone was, and there was a lot of support and encouragement,” Rodriguez said.
The Borderites improved to 1–9–0 in league play and 2–11–1 overall, while the Seahawks fell to 1–8–1 in the league and 3–10–1 overall.
Blaine’s next game is at Nooksack Valley on Thursday, October 23 at 7 p.m. After that is the senior game at home against Ferndale on Monday, October 27. That game also starts at 7 p.m.