For the third time in four years, coach Andria Fountain's Sehome Mariners are in the Class 2A State Soccer Playoff's final four.
That adds up to a wealth of valuable experience for defenders Hannah Mankle, Emily Russell and Alli Umbaugh, who've all been fixtures on Fountain's squad since their sophomore year.
The trio has experienced triumph and defeat in consecutive seasons, beating White River 6-2 for a 2010 state title and losing to Cedarcrest in the state quarters a year ago.
The Mariners are hoping their amount of state experience, unlike their city counterpart, Squalicum, will pay off in a big way when they lace up their cleats for their semifinal showdown with West Valley Yakima at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at Shoreline Stadium.
"I think it's a huge benefit, knowing what we are going into," Russell said. "It almost puts us ahead of the other three teams."
Umbaugh echoed Russell.
"I think it is really good, because you're not going to have any surprises," Umbaugh said. "You know what to expect with teams that are going to be in the final four. You know they are going to be more skilled than, obviously, teams we've played in the past."
Sehome may have hoisted a state title trophy two years ago, but Fountain and her players made it clear: they are an entirely different group than the Mariners' 2010 version.
Emily Webster scored 10 goals in 2010, and Rachel Albert started in goal, but most of Sehome's scoring production is gone. Even though Mankle, Russell and Umbaugh have final four experience, 2010 Northwest Conference Player of the Year and defender Kaya Jones has since graduated.
"It's definitely a different feeling, because I think we depended a lot on Kaya Jones that year, because she was a really good player," Umbaugh said. "We all kind of thought, 'Oh, OK, well she can do it,' but now it's more like we have to work together more, which is better, because we get to each play our hardest. We don't have to depend on one person. We all get to do it."
It's strong unified play that has helped the Mariners pick up momentum after losing to Squalicum in the Northwest District title game two weeks ago.
Sehome has became a band of road warriors, traveling 433 miles round trip to beat North Kitsap 3-0 in the state round of 16 and Klahowya in shootout in the state quarters.
"We are felling really good," Russell said. "I think we are a lot more confident now than we were a month ago or even two weeks ago, because we have been playing well and winning games. I know people have doubted us at the beginning, because, I mean, we lost some really big players, who we had in 2010, but I think making the final four is a huge confidence booster."
There will be no doubting Sehome if it's able to pull out two wins during its matches Friday and Saturday.
While the majority of Sehome's roster will be heading to the final four the first time, the Mariners' defense is well seasoned in matches on such a heightened stage.
"I feel like we all know how much it takes to get to state and win it," Mankle said. "We were there sophomore year and know what it takes to win state."
Sehome's backline, which is yet to allow a goal during the state tournament, will certainly need to be clicking. Umbaugh believes her defense has grown tremendously as a unit since 2010. She thinks that growth will be an asset come Friday.
"I think we have grown a lot in our skills, and we have grown together," said Umbaugh of her defense and senior teammates Mankle and Russell in particular. "We know how each other plays, and we can play based on each other. I think that really helps, because we can connect really well."
The closer a team gets to reaching its end goal, every play seems to be more amplified. It's a feeling Russell has grown accustom to playing state soccer three years in a row. She knows the best way to quickly disperse a mistake.
"The biggest thing as the competition gets harder is staying positive in back," Russell said. "If anyone makes a mistake in the field, it comes down to defense, and it's our job not to let it get to Rachel (Albert). That's a lot of responsibility, and sometimes we get frustrated with that. The most important thing is to stay positive back there."
Fountain said Mankle, Russell and Umbaugh have been a constant force all season long, as they've often played an unsung hero role.
"I would say all three are some of the most consistent, solid players I have had over the years," the Sehome coach said. "I mean, they have all been playing since their sophomore year at the highest level. They are just so consistent and reliable with how they function together. They don't get a lot of accolades. On defense, I guess they're kind of the unsung heroes."
Though the season has changed and Sehome has a new look, nothing has differed in Fountain's preparation for winning another state championship.
"It's a different team, but a lot of the teams we're facing are different teams," Fountain said. "We're just kind of approaching it the same way and taking it one game at a time and playing our game. We want to be prepared as well as we can and go down there and try to put in the best showing we can."
Reach Andrew Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-756-2862.
FRIDAY'S STATE SOCCER PLAYOFFS
CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINALS
? Squalicum vs. Sumner (at Shoreline Stadium), 6 p.m.
? Sehome vs. West Valley Yakima (at Shoreline Stadium), 8 p.m.
SEHOME'S 2012 RESULTS (19-1-1), (12-0-0)
Sept. 4 at Ferndale W 2-1
Sept. 6 at Squalicum (Civic) T 2-2
Sept. 8 Bellingham (Civic) W 2-1
Sept. 11 Lynden Christian (Northwest)* W 5-2
Sept. 13 Sedro-Woolley (Northwest)* W 5-0
Sept. 18 at Anacortes* W 4-0
Sept. 20 Squalicum (Civic)* W 1-0
Sept. 22 Lynden (Northwest) W 3-0
Sept. 25 Ferndale (Civic)* W 3-0
Sept. 27 at Mount Baker* W 4-0
Oct. 2 at Bellingham (Civic)* W 2-0
Oct. 4 Blaine (Northwest)* W 3-1
Oct. 11 at Lynden (Bender)* W 5-0
Oct. 16 Nooksack Valley (Civic)* W 10-0
Oct. 18 at Meridian* W 5-0
Oct. 22 at Burlington-Edison* W 3-0
CLASS 2A DISTRICT TOURNAMENT
Oct. 27 Cedarcrest (at Civic Stadium) W 5-2
Oct. 30 Granite Falls (at Civic Stadium) W 2-1 (SO)
Nov. 1 Squalicum L 2-1
CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT
Nov. 7 North Kitsap W 3-0
Nov. 10 Klahowya W 1-0 (SO)
Nov. 16 West Valley (Yakima) 8 p.m.
SEHOME'S SCORING LEADERS
Goals Asst. Points
Emily Webster 19 11 49
Hanna Tarleton 13 14 40
Teya Mischaikov 9 1 19
Nikki Thon 6 5 17
Kate Peterson 5 1 11
Ashley Mindnich 4 2 10
Alia Jones 2 4 8
Hannah Mankle 3 1 7
Christine Zlotek 2 3 7
Haidyn Weight 2 0 4
Alli Umbaugh 1 1 3
Marie Kochman 1 1 3
Rachel Albert 1 1 3
Bryce Sherif 0 2 2
Emily Russell 1 0 2
SEHOME'S 2012 ROSTER
No. Player Yr. Pos.
0 Rachel Albert Sr. GK
00/1 Hannah Lauffer Jr. GK
3 Haidyn Weight Jr. M
4 Ashley Mindnich Jr. F
5 Hanna Tarleton Sr. M
6 Savanna Balfour Jr. D
7 Alia Jones Jr. F
9 Bryce Sherif Fr. D
10 Marie Kochman Jr. F
11 Kate Peterson So. F
15 Hannah Mankle Sr. D
16 Emily Russell Sr. D
17 Christine Zlotek Sr. M
18 Heron Paulsen-Quick Sr. D/M
19 Teya Mischaikov Sr. M/D
20 Katie Boon-Dooley Fr. D
22 Kelsey Willis Jr. D
23 Alli Umbaugh Sr. D
24 Emily Webster Jr. M
Reach ANDREW LANG at email@example.com or call ext. 862.