SHORELINE - Bellingham coach Mark Wright turned to his seniors with six minutes remaining in a 1-1 state semifinal game against Squalicum and asked them one question: "Is this enough?"
The Red Raiders would have been heralded for their improbable run to the Class 2A Girls' Soccer Championship semifinals after barely making districts as one of the lowest seeds. But instead of being OK with merely making it that far, Bellingham did what few thought it could: beat Squalicum 2-1 on Friday, Nov. 22, at Shoreline Stadium, advancing to within one game of the state championship.
"Euphoric. We're dancing in the streets in front of our fans. It's like a dream for us right now," Wright said. "We're doing things that we haven't done all year."
The Red Raiders will face Sumner, who defeated Yakima West Valley 1-0 in the earlier semifinal, at 4 p.m. at Shoreline Stadium for the state championship.
Squalicum, which lost for a second straight year in the semifinals, will play in the 3rd-/4th-place game at Noon against West Valley.
The game was everything a rivalry match should be. They battled, scrapped, clawed and pushed, but with the score tied 1-1 with just more than five minutes remaining, the Storm defense that had only allowed 11 goals all season made one mistake.
Sophomore forward Brooke Baker received a pass from the midfield, positioned her body against her defender and spun to her left creating just the smallest amount of separation she needed to get the lefty shot off. The shot skidded off the top of the turf from the 12-yard line and beat a diving Lauren Eckert in to the right corner of the net.
Baker didn't even think she would get the shot off.
"I thought it was going to go to the side and (Eckert) was going to get it," Baker said. "I don't know. I just did it and it worked."
Despite entering the heavy underdog to a Storm team that hadn't allowed a goal in regulation since Oct. 17, the Red Raiders struck first.
Mia Hodges recorded Bellingham's first goal in the seventh minute when she lofted a ball from the 15-yard line that was more a prayer than anything else. The ball suspended high in the air, slowly falling toward Eckert, who proceeded to backpedal and watch as the ball continued to travel beyond her reach into the back of the net. She made a last-ditch punch, proving to be nothing more than a vain attempt at preventing her team from falling down 1-0.
"It sort of hovered, and I was thinking, 'She has it, she has it,'" Hodges said. "But the way it sort of caught in the air and went in, it all worked out."
The tempo picked up from there, as bodies hitting the turf at Shoreline Stadium became more a theme than anything else.
Squalicum's Kim Hazlett and Bellingham's Emma Brice were evidence of that numerous times. The rivalry was, too, as Hazlett overplayed a ball, pushing Brice to the ground. Hazlett offered a half-hearted hand with Brice looking down at it and proceeding to walk in the other direction. There was no love lost between the two.
"Your whole season is on the line," Hodges said. "There were a couple of times where it was really physical ... but it's going to come down to that. It's state."
The Storm had its chances early, well before the Red Raiders took the lead. Squalicum senior team captain Lauren Gibb squared a shot off the top crossbar in the third minute, and Squalicum sent another shot just wide to the left moments later.
Inevitably, though, one of the chances found the back of the net in the form of a free kick by Gibb from the 35-yard line that found the feet of sophomore forward Kim Dorr. The ball was a low liner that Dorr, back turned to the net battling for position, deflected the ball through a myriad of defenders in to the right corner of the net. The Red Raiders' keeper, Hannah Jacobus, made a slight attempt at the rolling shot, but it scooted right past her to even the score at 1-1 in the 21st minute.
The physical play continued, with both teams clearly understanding the magnitude of the game. The refs, too, were content on letting the two rivals battle it out.
Gibb's hard-luck day continued, with her missing wide right on a pass she received two feet from the goal. She also connected with the top crossbar early in the second in almost a mirror image of her previous miss in the third minute. Wright knew his team got away with one in the early moments of the second.
"We were kind of flat in the second, and they hit the post and you could see the air go out of us there for a minute," Wright said.
But as the Storm walked off the field wondering what could have been, Bellingham ran toward its crowd and knew its Cinderella run had at least one more game left.
"No one expected it. Nobody expected us to be here in the first place," Hodges said, "and now we've taken out Sehome, Squalicum and Archbishop Murphy."
Sumner is all that awaits now.
BELLINGHAM 2, SQUALICUM 1
Goal: Mia Hodges (Bellingham), Assist: NA, Time: 7:00; Goal: Kim Dorr (Squalicum), Assist: Lauren Gibb, Time: 21:00; Goal: Brooke Baker (Bellingham), Assist: NA, Time: 75:00. Shots on goal: Squalicum: 9. Bellingham: 7. Saves: Lauren Eckert (Squalicum) 5. Hannah Jacobus (Bellingham) 8.