BELLINGHAM - The Red Raiders didn't leave Civic Stadium with a win, but after their four-goal loss to Squalicum five days ago, a tie during a rematch with the Storm sure felt like a Bellingham victory.
"I'm tremendously proud of my girls," Red Raiders coach Mark Wright said. "We were pretty humbled on Saturday, and I think the season for us we have kind of been searching. It was good to come out tonight. It showed us that we can compete with anybody."
Freshman Kendra Steele scored from 25 yards out on a laser free kick four minutes in for her team-best fifth goal of the year, and Bellingham's defense limited Squalicum's potent attack to one second-half score to earn a 1-1 draw during a physical Northwest Conference match Thursday, Oct. 3.
The tie ended a six-match losing streak Bellingham (4-2-4, 3-1-2 NWC) had against Squalicum (6-1-2, 4-0-1 NWC) dating back to a Red Raiders' 2010 win during the Northwest District Tournament. Steele's goal was also the first score the Bellingham has recorded against the Storm since that 2010 victory.
Midfielders Mia Hodges, Hattie North and Steele did an outstanding job controlling the middle third and defenders Emma Brice, Alice Hiebert, Lindsey Selnes, Kylie Clark and Michaela Knutson helped neutralize Squalicum's array of talented forwards.
Even Squalicum coach David Kish was impressed with the Red Raiders' effort.
"Bellingham came out tonight to play," Kish said. "It's as simple as that. That wasn't the same team we saw Saturday by any stretch."
Squalicum entered Thursday's matchup on a four-match win streak, outscoring its past four opponents 17-1. Bellingham had one win in its past four matches. In spite of losing 4-0 to Squalicum just a few days prior, the Red Raiders displayed no trepidation. They were anxious to prove themselves.
"We decided we were going to play our hearts out and play as a team," Steele said, "because we can definitely compete with them. We wanted to come out hard and show them who we are."
Squalicum, which has high aspirations this season after reaching last year's state tournament semifinals, learned just how tough Bellingham can be.
NWC leading goal scorers Kim Hazlett and Kim Dorr were thwarted by Bellingham's pressure defense and weren't able to string together passing sequences they're used to with their veteran group of midfielders.
The Storm entered the half trailing 1-0, but Squalicum quickly equalized thanks to a well-played cross from Lauren Gibb to Dorr into Bellingham's box in the 42nd minute.
Gibb sent a ball in from right to left. Dorr simultaneously knifed through Bellingham's defense from the left side of the field into Bellingham's scoring area. The sophomore goal scorer let the ball skim off her head, redirecting it past Bellingham goalkeeper Hannah Jacobus.
The score was Dorr's 10th of the season, matching Hazlett for the most in the NWC. The assist was Gibb's eighth - also the best in the NWC.
"It was huge, absolutely," said Kish of Dorr's goal. "They knew these are the moments that are going to define our season. We were a goal down, and they were playing really well. We had to come back and we did."
Neither side could push a second goal across in the second half, despite several chances.
Bellingham's Cashel Vincent and Mary Dyrland both took decent shot attempts that were stopped by Storm keeper Bailey Canup, who made four saves.
Squalicum senior Gracie Slater nearly scored off a corner-kick play late in the game after Bellingham's defense suffered a mental lapse. Gibb passed Slater the ball off the corner, and Slater dribbled uncontested to 10 yards from goal before blasting a shot just over the crossbar.
"I don't know if we were caught off guard or maybe we weren't ready to play, but it was their game tonight," Kish said.
Squalicum faces Sedro-Woolley next at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Northwest Soccer Fields, while Bellingham plays Sehome at 7 p.m. the same night at Civic.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
SQUALICUM 1, BELLINGHAM 1
Goal: Kendra Steele (Bellingham), time: 4; Goal: Kim Dorr (Squalicum), assist Lauren Gibb, time: 42. Shots on goal: Squalicum 5; Bellingham 5. Goalies (saves): Squalicum: Bailey Canup (4); Bellingham: Hannah Jacobus (4).
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.