Opponents just haven't found the back of the Sehome girls' soccer team's net all that often so far this season.
When Squalicum beat the Mariners 2-1 on Saturday, Nov. 3, in the championship game of the Class 2A Northwest District, it marked only the fourth time in 19 games that Sehome had allowed two goals.
In fact it was only the seventh time all season the Mariners allowed any goals.
While Sehome cruised into the playoffs on the back of a few prolific goal scorers, it was the team's defense that powered the team into a first-round matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 7, against North Kitsap in the first round of the Class 2A State Playoffs.
"I think they (the defenders) are the unsung heroes of the team," Sehome coach Andria Fountain said in a phone interview. "There aren't many stats for them as there are for offense. They've been solid the last couple of years, and I think some of them have less than 20 goals scored on them in their careers."
Emily Russell, Alli Umbaugh, Hannah Mankle and Teya Mischaikov are the starting defenders for the Mariners, and Rachel Albert is the starting goal keeper. Bryce Sherif also has played significant time in the back for Sehome.
"I think in the beginning, it kind of took us a while to realize that we are a different team than we were last year," Albert said. "But Bryce really stepped up for us. They are all solid and I trust them totally. There are moments of miscommunication, and a lot of that is on me, but we're still improving."
Albert and Russell set a preseason goal of only allowing nine or fewer goals the entire year.
During the regular season, the team only allowed seven goals, only three in league play and only one goal in the final 12 games.
Though they allowed four in three games in the district tournament, that's still a .611 goals against average, while the Mariners have averaged 3.67 goals per game offensively.
With those stats, it's not surprising Sehome enters the state playoffs with a 17-1-1 record.
"I think it took some time for us to get comfortable," Fountain said. "I played Teya in a new position, and it wasn't working as well as I wanted because she is so defensive minded."
Fountain had pulled Mischaikov up as a central midfielder - she normally plays as a defensive center midfielder, or more commonly, a stopper.
While Mischaikov was playing as a midfielder, Fountain decided to start Sherif as a marking back in the defense.
"Bryce did a really good job coming in, especially as a freshman," Mischaikov said. "She tries really hard, and I appreciate that. I can always see her effort."
The Mariners backline also is heavily involved in the attack. Mankle has scored three goals and has an assist, Umbaugh has a goal and an assist, Russell has a goal, and even Albert has a goal and an assist when she got to play up on senior night.
Mischaikov has been most productive on the offensive side and has eight goals and an assist.
"If I can get forward I try," Mischaikov said. "I go up for corner kicks and that gets me forward a lot. I also play forward a lot with Emily Webster. I try to get up as much as possible to try and help the team get a goal."
Sehome's back five have been playing with each other for most of their careers allowing them to learn each other's habits. They have also played significant time together on club teams.
"Rachel gives us huge confidence because she is so solid," Russell said. "We try to not let her touch the ball ever, but we know that if someone gets through that it will be OK because she is so good. With Rachel back there, we know that one of us can go forward and get involved with the attack."
As the goalkeeper, Albert puts herself in charge of directing the back four, but it's not only about not allowing a goal for her.
"I'm happy with getting a win," Albert said. "Obviously I like getting shutouts, but if the team plays good defense and gets the win, I'm happy."
Russell, who is also seen as a leader, missed time in the beginning of the year with an injury. She thinks that some of the difficulties in the beginning of the year came from having new players in different positions.
"We weren't comfortable with each other yet," Russell said. "I had some health issues but that motivated me to step up while coming back."
The Mariners have high hopes and even higher expectations going into the state tournament.
Last year, Sehome lost in the state quarterfinals to Cedarcrest 3-2.
"Last year was kind of a wakeup call," Russell said. "This year, I know we can do it."
Reach Kyle Elliott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2271.
STATE SOCCER SCHEDULE
TUESDAY, NOV. 6
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
? First round: Fife at Squalicum (at Civic Stadium), 6 p.m.
? First round: Sehome at North Kitsap, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 7
CLASS 1A STATE TOURNAMENT
? First round: Meridian at Elma (at Stewart Field, Aberdeen), 6 p.m.
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.