Squalicum's stingy defense lands Storm back in 2A semifinals

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 15, 2013 

TACOMA - Squalicum's stout defense helped the Storm pick up a 3-0 quarterfinal victory over Fife in the Class 2A State Girls' Soccer Tournament on Friday, Nov. 15, at Franklin Pierce High School.

The victory puts Squalicum (17-2-1) back into the final four for the second consecutive year. The Storm will play the winner of the Archbishop Murphy-Bellingham quarterfinal match, which will be played at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16.

"We have unfinished business," Storm coach David Kish said. "We are driven to make it past where we were last year. As long as we play our game, we'll be OK."

The Northwest Conference champion Storm's game plan was simple: Play as a unit with no heroes.

This team mindset was on display as smooth passing led to three different players scoring goals - with the game winner coming in just the third minute.

Defender Payton McNally kicked the ball free from Fife's Madison Gale, and Squalicum took possession. McNally shot a pass to midfielder Lizzy Herda, who dished to an open Lauren Gibb at the top of the Trojans' box.

Gibb's 15-yard shot whizzed past Fife goalkeeper Amber Nielsen for a 1-0 Storm lead.

"(I) was just judging the ball and being ready to get into position so I can get the ball from them," McNally said. "We (adjusted) to how they played ... in the end, we just wanted it more."

Fife never seemed to get good scoring opportunities - and when it did, Squalicum goalkeeper Lauren Eckert registered four easy saves.

"Our defensive backs don't get enough of the credit they deserve," Kish said. "They don't put up the stats but they are just a hard group to score on."

Fife, which was looking to make it back to the semifinals for the first time since its back-to-back state championships (2007-08), also was done in by the weather. When the Trojans (16-3) tried advancing the ball through the air, the rain or wind killed it - and the Storm was ready to take possession.

"We played it low today and didn't try to allow the (weather) to affect our shots and passes," Herda said.

Case in point: In the 64th-minute, Herda was fed a pass just outside the right corner of Fife's box - Herda accounted for the wind at her back and shot a ground ball off the post for Squalicum's third goal.

"All week in practice, we were working on low hard shots," Herda said.

Squalicum's second goal came off a Gibb cross that Kim Hazlett put away with a power header in the 32nd minute.

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