Lauren Wallace's and Andrea DeVere's soccer relationship goes back a long way.
Before they roamed Squalicum's back line together, before the pair of seniors became recognized as top defenders in the Northwest Conference, Wallace and DeVere played Whatcom Rangers club soccer together in seventh and eighth grade and also played a year of rec-league soccer on the same team before Rangers.
Squalicum is reaping the benefits of the chemistry they've created during their seven seasons together.
"My defense is fantastic," Storm coach David Kish said in a phone interview. "Andrea and Lauren are my two captains, and they are right at the heart of it. They lead from the back, and they have playing styles that complement each other."
DeVere has a knack for winning balls in the air and provides a calming presence in the defensive third. Wallace is quick and acts as an emotional leader. Both are great communicators. Both are tenacious defenders, and both are central backs.
Combine freshman right outside back Rachel Dorr's speed and heady play with sophomore left outside back Jackie Dierdorff's well-rounded defensive abilities, and Squalicum has a quartet of defenders capable of neutralizing just about any offense thrown at them.
They've proved it all season.
Eight matches in - the halfway point in Squalicum's schedule - the Storm has allowed three goals. That's right, three. It's an average equating to 0.38 goals per match.
Wallace and DeVere have scored the same number of goals, three, as they've allowed.
"I think our defense is, obviously, naturally strong I guess, but it has helped that Lauren and I have been playing together so long, so we kind of know how we move together and stuff," DeVere said. "Jackie and Rachel have really stepped it up. It hasn't been hard at all incorporating them."
League-leading Sehome has recorded all three goals against Squalicum - two during its non-conference season opener and one in a league match. The Storm has blanked Ferndale, Burlington-Edison, Meridian, Lynden and Bellingham twice. All but Lynden reside in the top half of the NWC table.
The impressive totals even took Wallace by surprise.
"It actually goes unnoticed by me, because it's what we do," said Wallace of posting a shutout. "We try to keep those goals out. It's a bit of an accomplishment for both of us and for our defense in general. We only had three goals scored on us this season? I actually never realized that. I'm impressed with us."
Dierdorff, DeVere, Dorr, and Wallace aren't the most physically imposing group. They don't usually outmuscle opponents for the ball. They communicate well and have mastered their own goal-prevention technique.
"It's pretty strategic, actually," Wallace said of her defense's success. "Andrea is a lot more versatile in the air than I am, so I'm usually the one who drops back to support her for the headers. I can distribute it out if she passes it back to me, which is really how it works. We always work with our outsides really well, and Andrea and I try to have depth for each other when we play, so we don't get beat by a split ball."
In no way does Kish use a formation that caters to his defense.
He said he spends most of his time focusing on the Storm's attack. In fact, Squalicum's stingy defense allows Kish to work more players into the attacking third.
"Because our D is so strong, we have been able to have a more attack-minded style," Kish said. "I know (our defense) is good to handle it."
The season DeVere and Wallace are having was somewhat expected. The two have been logging significant varsity minutes since their sophomore year and had strong 2011 campaigns. The play of Dierdorff and Dorr has been a "pleasant surprise," as Wallace put it.
Wallace said both looked really strong at the beginning of the year, but two underclassmen playing at the level they have is a bit of an anomaly.
"The first thing that comes to mind with them is that you'd think as underclassmen they might be shy or not want to express themselves and be leaders on the team, too, but they have really stepped up in that way, and they're communicating," DeVere said of Dorr and Dierdorff. "I think that is one reason we have been so successful."
Squalicum also has used a first-half-second-half goal keeper rotation with hard-working Shelby Spooner usually working the first half and last year's starter Lauren Eckert playing the final 40 minutes.
It's proved to be a successful formula.
Squalicum (6-1-1, 4-1-0 NWC) is on track for a postseason berth. Its only league loss was a 1-0 result against Sehome. Merely reaching the postseason will not satisfy DeVere, Wallace and the rest of the Storm, though.
Heartbreak has followed them the past three years. Squalicum ended their season in the late rounds of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament 2009-11. Making state this year is priority No. 1.
"It's our only goal," Wallace said.
"We're taking it game by game," DeVere said. "We know every game or win is going to bring us closer to our goal. We have been so close the last few years. We have a goal sheet, and Kish, before every game, shows it to us, and in huge letters it says state."
Reaching the state tournament would certainly provide a lasting moment for DeVere and Wallace, who have spent so much time on the soccer field together.
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.