BELLINGHAM - Hannah Lauffer said she missed soccer so much that she "couldn't sleep well" when the goal-keeper sat out the previous Whatcom FC Rangers season.
Now Lauffer, who will be a Sehome senior, instead figures she'll give opponents nightmares.
Her title game opponents in the annual Baker Blast may be sleepless in Surrey, B.C., after Lauffer made a superb showing, helping the Rangers win a dramatic shootout to claim a 2-1 victory in the girls' U17/18 premiere division Sunday, June 23, at Northwest Soccer Park.
After making several noteworthy saves during regulation and double overtime, Lauffer stopped SGU Surrey's three final penalty kicks and the Rangers made their last three to win the shootout 4-3.
Lauffer showed goalkeeping may remain in good hands this fall at Sehome, where she served as backup last season to Rachel Albert, the four-year keeper who was Whatcom County Player of the Year.
"I really missed soccer and I couldn't sleep well," Lauffer said of her decision to skip Rangers soccer in the 2012 club season, when Albert was one of the state's most effective goalies. "I missed about four months and it really showed me (how much she loves to play keeper)."
Rangers assistant Jamie Arthurs, who last fall concluded a standout three years as Western Washington University's keeper, was especially impressed in Lauffer's first tournament this season.
"Hannah was consistent the entire weekend (as the Rangers went 5-0)," Arthurs said. "She really did a great job, giving up only three goals (while posting three shutouts)."
The Rangers fell behind 3-1 in the shootout, but Lauffer made game-saving stops on Surrey's fourth and fifth attempts while Taylor Lunde and Karissa Culley tied it 3-3 to send the penalty kick duel into extra boots. Lauffer then made another save and Christina Slaughter followed with a perfectly placed kick into the far left corner to take the title.
Surrey earned a 1-0 lead with six minutes left in regulation on a drive by Megan Leite as Lauffer had no chance to stop the goal. But three minutes later, the Rangers tied it 1-1 on a short power goal by Kathryn Simonds off a long cross from Lauren Gibb, who also scored on her team's first kick of the shootout.
"Our entire team played well and everyone contributed," said Arthurs, explaining why she couldn't begin to single anyone out. The Rangers scored 15 goals in five matches, including their 3-1 semifinal victory earlier Sunday in which Gibb and Lunde scored along with an own goal.
In the 12 premiere divisions in which the Ranger had entries, four boys' teams and four girls' squads reached the finals.
On the boys' side, the U12 Rangers beat SSC Shadow 4-0; the U14 Rangers topped EDC FC 2-1; the U15 Rangers shut out Richmond 1-0; and the U17/18 Rangers fell to CCB Revolution of Surrey 1-0 in double overtime, despite outstanding goalkeeping by Hector Gutierrez, who will be a junior at Lynden.
In other girls' finals involving local premiere squads, the U13 Rangers lost to Eastside FC 1-0; the U14 Rangers beat the Moody Storm 4-1; and the U15 Rangers topped Pegasus 3-1.
Gutierrez, who gave up only two goals in five games for the U17/18 boys, posted three consecutive shutouts, including a 1-0 semifinal win over Northwest United, and also had a shutout in regulation in the championship game. Brandon Burbank scored the goal in the semifinal on an assist from Spencer Wallace.
"Hector saved our back line on many occasions and stopped teams in the air and on the ground," said Rangers U17/18 coach Scott Caldwell, who also cited solid efforts by Noe Betancourt-Cruz and the Wallace twins, Zach and Spencer. "Hector had a tremendous tournament."
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.