BELLINGHAM - A giant sigh of relief ushered Squalicum into the second round of the Class 2A State Championship girls' soccer tournament.
The Storm defeated Hockinson 1-0 on Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Civic Stadium in the opening round of the state tournament.
"It just seemed like there was a lot of anxiety," Squalicum coach David Kish said. "Whatever it was, it just wasn't our usual selves. ... After a lot of comfortable games where we were playing really well, things have kind of tightened up."
Squalicum will face the winner of the Fife-Klahowya game at a site and date that has yet to be determined. Hockinson, though, saw its season come to an end with the loss.
The Storm's lone goal came in the seventh minute off a one-touch hit from junior defender Jackie Dierdorff just beyond the 30-yard mark. The ball floated through the air, and as it did, Hockinson keeper Isabella Koenig backed up and tried to time her leap perfectly. It was a second too early as the ball slipped between her and the top crossbar for the only goal of the game.
"I just saw a few different people were going for it, and it bounced back and started rolling, and I was like 'I don't really see a pass. I'm going for it,'" Dierdorff said.
Only once could Dierdorff recall a goal from such a distance, and upon it leaving her foot, the feeling and touch felt right, she said.
"I saw it was on frame, so that gave me a little hope," she said. "It kind of had a little curve on it, so I was like, 'Maybe.' ... I was crossing my fingers."
Hockinson coach Zack Goldfinch's reaction and word to his keeper were clear: "It's not your fault."
He turned, shook his head and continued on toward the center line.
"We got beat by a (30)-yard shot on a rope, which that's kind of how playoffs are," Goldfinch said. "Special time, special shot. It's that one moment, that one lapse, that can kill you."
Despite entering with an offense that had scored 68 goals through 20 matches this season, everything was seemingly an inch off - a pass off - for the Storm. Even luck seemed to favor anything but the Storm for much of the game.
With two minutes to go in the first half, Storm senior captain Lauren Gibb took a shot from inside the box after she had already beaten Hockinson's keeper. There was a scramble for the ball as it rolled toward the right post, looking like it would give the Storm the second goal they had long sought. Instead, a Hockinson defender retreated back and made a sliding kick-save as the ball was inches from crossing the white line.
"Goal-line stands. What can you do?" Kish said.
Kish is taking the "floodgate" approach when looking at his offense's recent inability to score, believing that once his team begins to connect on its tries, Squalicum will begin to resemble its customary, prolific self.
"Once that opens up, it's going to be, 'Oh, that's what we needed,'" Kish said.
It wasn't all Squalicum's doing when looking at its inability to take command of the game. Hockinson's defense continually kept the Storm from having legitimate tries on net, often times pushing them to the outskirts and forcing difficult crosses. That's a feat, too, considering the Hawks have a backline comprised solely of three sophomores.
"I lost my whole back line last year to seniors," Goldfinch said. "Not a lot of people expected us to be back here this year, and we did. ... We've had a lot of young girls step up."
Kish, like Goldfinch, had good reason to leave the field comfortable with the way his defense performed against the Hawks. Only once did the Hawks' offense create a legitimate try on net when a Hockinson forward had a clean look at Storm keeper Lauren Eckert from six yards out. Eckert deflected the lined shot away from goal, and other than that, the Hawks couldn't penetrate the Storm's physical defensive unit.
"Even though offensively, perhaps, we kept missing shots by a little bit, my defense stayed solid, my keeper stayed solid," Kish said.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or 360-715-2238. Follow on Twitter @bhamsports for other Whatcom County sports news.
SQUALICUM 1, HOCKINSON 0
Scoring: Goal: Jackie Dierdorff (Squalicum), Assist: NA, Time: 7:00. Shots on goal: Hockinson: 7, Squalicum: 9. Saves: Isabella Koenig (Hockinson) 8; Lauren Eckert (Squalicum) 7.