BELLINGHAM - The Bellingham girls' soccer team spent 215 minutes trying to score against Archbishop Murphy, but Brooke Baker and the Red Raiders finally got the goal they so-desperately craved in arguably Bellingham's biggest game in more than a decade.
The Red Raiders suffered one-goal defeats to the Wildcats twice in the past two weeks - once in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament opener at Everett Memorial Stadium and again in a district consolation game in Sultan - but they weren't denied a third time in the cozy confines of Civic Stadium.
Baker polished off a beautiful sequence started from Cashel Vincent and Mary Dyrland in the 56th minute to propel Bellingham to a 1-0 Class 2A State Tournament quarterfinal win Saturday, Nov. 16. It's the first time the Red Raiders have made the state semis since 2002 and only the second time in school history.
A portion of Red Raider fans eagerly waited pressed against the Civic Stadium front railing as the final moments of stoppage time ticked away. They charged the field and met an ecstatic group of Bellingham players at midfield as soon as the referee blew the game-ending whistle.
"I remember the first time we did it in 2002," Red Raiders coach Mark Wright reminisced. "I talked to my principal now, Jeff Vaughn, his daughter played on my team. We did it that year, and we'd always talked about how magical that run was. It seems like the same thing is going on."
Bellingham's miraculous run began less than two weeks ago, winning a loser-out district match against Sehome. Next they beat Burlington-Edison to stay alive and advance to state. Bellingham "was dead to rights," as Wright put it, trailing Ridgefield by multiple goals before coming back during the first round of state.
And that magic followed the Red Raiders all the way back to Bellingham's Civic Stadium Saturday.
"I'm really proud of my team," said senior goalkeeper Hannah Jacobus, who made four saves. "We knew we could do it. We just have to stay on top of our game. We know how strong our team is. We just needed to get everybody where they need to be and believe in it."
Wright credited belief as one of the determinant factors in the win.
Both Bellingham and Archbishop Murphy created at least one decent scoring opportunity in the first half, but neither could solve each other's defense. The Red Raiders went into the locker room not having scored against the Wildcats in 200 minutes of play.
"At halftime we talked about, we don't have to play so fearful of them," Wright said. "We talked about, let's go get it. Let's go after them."
The Red Raiders begun applying more pressure in the offensive third, and they got their big breakthrough 16 minutes into the second half.
"We sent the ball to Cashel, who is great on a first-touch ball," said Wright, breaking down Baker's goal. "She plays it across to Mary's head and flicks it over to Brooke, who traps it and sends it into net. It was a beautiful goal."
Baker collected the header from Dyrland on the left side of the field after Vincent's right-to-left cross and found herself with no one between her and Archbishop Murphy keeper Natalie Robinson.
The only thought going through her head? "Don't miss," Baker said
"It was such a blur," she added. "I was just hoping it would go in the net."
Baker's goal was the only score needed thanks to inspired play by Bellingham's defense, which Wright said is the unit most responsible for the Red Raiders' postseason run.
Kylie Clark, Alice Hiebert, Emma Brice, Lindsey Selnes and Michaela Knutson played outstanding along Bellingham's backline, limiting Archbishop Murphy to four shots on goal. Even when the Wildcats went into desperation-mode in the final minutes, the Red Raiders' defense wasn't fazed.
"Every one of those girls gave every ounce they could to play the game clean," Wright said.
Midfielders Kendra Steele and Hattie North also enjoyed outstanding performances. Steele nearly scored on a pair of 30-plus yard free kicks, and North made huge contributions playing end-line to end-line.
Bellingham now turns its attention to the state tournament semifinals where it'll meet city-rival Squalicum at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Shoreline Stadium for the right to play for a state title
The Red Raiders have played Squalicum twice this season, losing 4-0 and tying 1-1.
"We're going to come out 110 percent, and they should be ready," Baker said.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
BELLINGHAM 1, ARCHBISHOP MURPHY 0
Scoring: Goal: Brooke Baker (Bellingham), assist: Mary Dyrland, time: 56. Shots on goal: Archbishop Murphy 4; Bellingham 7. Goalies (saves): Archbishop Murphy: Natalie Robinson (6); Bellingham: Hannah Jacobus (4).
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.