BELLINGHAM - Sehome goalie Rachel Albert proved why she's regarded as one of the best keepers in the Northwest Conference.
With the Mariners trailing in a penalty kick shootout, Albert made two athletic saves, helping Sehome clinch a Class 2A State Tournament berth while setting up a showdown with city-rival Squalicum for the Northwest District crown.
"There's two theories on keepers in shootouts," Mariners' coach Andria Fountain explained. "Usually they just pick a direction and go. I think she realized, 'I use my athletic ability and judge', so I think she changed to that method after the first shot. (Albert) was huge for us. If we have a kicker who misses a goal and our goalie makes a save, that helps redeem the team."
Albert did just that.
Sehome's Hanna Tarleton missed the Mariners' second attempt wide left after Granite Falls made its first two shots. Albert dove to her right to make a great save on a low shot during the Tigers' third attempt. Following a miss by Granite Falls' Rhiannon Alexander, Albert blocked the Tigers' final shot, and Sehome's Alli Umbaugh drilled a shot past Tigers' keeper Courtney Young to give Sehome a 1-1 (3-2 shootout) win Tuesday, Oct. 30, at rain-soaked Civic Stadium.
"There is a reason I put (Umbaugh) as my No. 5," Fountain said. "She does well under pressure, and she rarely misses, so I was pretty confident."
Mariners' Emily Webster made Sehome's third penalty kick to tie the shootout at 3-3, but after Alexander's miss, Sehome's Hannah Mankle missed her attempt wide left to give Granite Falls another opportunity.
More shot opportunities occurred in the shootout than the entire 90 minutes, including two five-minute sudden death overtimes.
Sehome managed only five shots on goal, while the Tiger's scored on their lone shot on frame. Fountain put some of the blame on the rain, which formed large puddles in front of both goals. In front of the east goal, two-thirds of the 18-yard box was filled with scattered puddles.
"I would have liked to keep our lead in regulation," Fountain said. "I think we could have played better, but I think we played as best we could in these conditions. We are a possession team, and that's hard when the weather is like this."
After limited first-half opportunities for both sides, Sehome midfielder/defender Teya Mischaikov opened the scoring with a strike from 25 yards out in the 53rd minute.
Mischaikov received a pass from Webster on the left side of the field and blasted a shot hooking towards the near post. The ball skimmed the bottom of the crossbar and went into the back of the net to put Sehome in front 1-0.
"I said to her at halftime that I need you to take more shots," Fountain said. "That's in her range, and she put that one away."
Just when it appeared Sehome had wrapped up a state berth, Granite Falls, who hadn't put much together all game offensively but maintained a high work rate, found a way to equalize.
Off a throw five yards in front of the corner flag, a ball got hurled into the scoring box with filled with puddles. The ball took an awkward bounce over a Sehome defender's foot and completely stopped in a puddle five yards from goal right in front of Albert. Granite Falls midfielder Courteney Loesche had a wide open shot and put her ball past Albert to tie the match.
"We let them score with four minutes left, and ideally it would have been nice to not let them score," Fountain said.
Sehome plays Squalicum next for a district title at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Civic Stadium.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
SEHOME 1, GRANITE FALLS 0
Scoring: Goal: Teya Mischaikov (Sehome), assist: Emily Webster, time: 53; Goal: Courteney Loesche (Granite Falls), time: 76. Shots on goal: Sehome 5; Granite Falls 1. Goalies (saves): Sehome: Rachel Albert (0); Granite Falls: Courtney Young (3).
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.