In their first game of the season, the Blaine boys soccer team made it clear that effort and intensity would be the hallmarks of their play for the rest of the season.
The Borderites defeated Meridian 3–0 in a game that showed competitive zeal and passion.
“I really like the effort I saw from the kids. They’ve shown hunger and intensity in practice, and to see them bringing that onto the field in their first game is a great thing,” said head coach Giovanni “Gio” Quesada.
Blaine forward Nick Butschli broke the ice in the first half, scoring with a one-touch at the six-yard line off a cross from the
corner. Later in the first half, Butschli and Kyle Sentkowski went in for a ball that had trickled through the Meridian defense at the penalty kick line. Sentkowski came sliding in and sent the ball up and over the keeper’s head.
In the second half, Blaine defenseman Konner Van Rijswijck launched a free kick into the six-yard line from near midfield. Butschli finished, putting it in the net for his second goal of the game.
As a senior captain, Butschli said he has high hopes for the team this season.
“We’re looking really strong,” he said. “We have a great group of talented freshman and a lot of upperclassmen who can lead the team and provide a taller, more aggressive presence.”
Tristan Hunter, in his first game as a varsity goalkeeper, made four big saves to maintain the shutout.
“He earns a lot of respect to come out in his first year playing soccer as a starting varsity keeper and make those big saves,” Butschli said.
Quesada was pleased to see the team win its first game of the season in front of the home crowd. This is his first year as coach of the boys varsity team, but he is a familiar face in Blaine soccer. Quesada was the assistant girls soccer coach last year, and his daughter Ashley is a standout on the girls soccer team.
Reflecting on how the team is shaping up, Quesada said the level of teamwork so far has been exemplary. “We have a good mix of ages from seniors down to freshmen, and they’re playing well together,” he said, adding that the game against Meridian was a good example of how the team is working together. “There was good communication, especially from the defense. They talked to one another and the whole team worked together to get the win. They played with passion.”
Passion and intensity from both sides boiled over briefly after Blaine scored its third and final goal of the game. A shoving match between a Meridian player and Garren Economy quickly escalated to fists before referees, other players and coaches broke it up. The players involved were dealt red cards.
Quesada said that although you never want to see fighting in a soccer match, it’s a result of tempers flaring when athletes are playing their hardest. “It’s a part of the game, unfortunately,” Quesada said.
The junior varsity team playing in the next field over on Pipeline Drive won their game 4–0. Quesada said he was encouraged by the win because he sees the J.V. and varsity teams as a single unit.
“These are the players who will be filling the varsity spots next year, so it’s important to think about them as part of the team,” Quesada said.
The team played at Nooksack Valley on March 19 and will travel to Lynden Christian on Saturday, March 22. The varsity game starts at noon.