Conditions were nearly perfect for the last match of the 2016 EPLWA season as Bellingham United FC hosted Seattle Stars at Civic Stadium. Both teams looked sharp from the very beginning, as some familiar faces were on the pitch- Tyler Bjork for Stars and Chris Jepson for BUFC. Before the match, United gave out end-of-season awards- Best Offensive Player went to Kyle Witzel, Best Defensive Player to Tyler Visten, and the Jeff McIntyre Award went to Richard Henderson. It was also a nice moment when United recognized Mo Marenah, who was playing his final game for United.
Chris Jepson opened the scoring in the 8th minute with a 25-yard rocket. Bjork answered in the 14th and then scored again in the 20th minute. United had a great chance thirty seconds later when Ivan Colin took the ball to the end line and crossed it back to Kurtis Pederson but Stars keeper was able to make the save.
A perfectly placed free kick from Henderson found a slashing Luke Olney who tucked the ball into the back of the net in the 29th minute. In the 33rd minute United gave up an own goal making the score 2-3 in favor of the Stars. Ryan Morissey saved a ball off the goal line in the final minute of the half to keep United within one.
The start of the second half saw only three changes total for both teams as the action picked up right where it left off. It wasn’t until the 75th minute that we saw a goal with Luke Olney leveling the score 3-3. Ever so fitting, Marenah scored a goal in the 88th minute of the game to clinch the win for United. ”We couldn’t have ended the season any better really,” Marenah said. “Our fans deserved that game and us finishing 2nd place. I had an amazing time in Bellingham and this is the best team I’ve ever been part of,” Marenah added. “The highlight of the day was Mo’s game winner late in the match for his last match with us after 3 years and moving on to finish his degree,” Head Coach Lance Calloway said.
“All summer long the guys have worked hard and it was nice to end the season on a positive note. We would’ve liked to come in first in the EPLWA, but in saying that next year will come out looking for the title,” BUFC keeper Tyler Visten said. His words were echoed by many people, but none could have summed it up better than Calloway, “What an incredible turn around from bottom of the table to battling for the championship. Congrats to Vancouver on capturing the EPL WA title, but for me the real champions are the Bellingham United players for bouncing back from last in the league in 2015 to finishing 2nd in a greatly competitive EPL WA.”