Storm rewrites ending with third-place finish

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 23, 2013 

SHORELINE — A third-place finish isn’t what Squalicum came to Shoreline Stadium to get, but as the Storm walked off the turf , trophy raised high, reality started to set in.

The Storm had done something never before seen in the program’s history.

“This is our first conference championship this year, and then obviously third place, it feels really good,” Squalicum coach David Kish said.

The Storm defeated Yakima West Valley 2-1 on penalty kicks in the third-place game at the Class 2A Girls’ Soccer State Championships on Saturday, Nov. 23. The win came mere hours after Squalicum 2-1 lost to Bellingham in the state semifinals , making it the second consecutive year the Storm lost a game short of reaching the finals.

The run through state was eerily similar to last year’s for Squalicum — losing in the semifinals and then facing the Rams in the consolation final. But in a refreshing departure from last year’s misfortune, Squalicum didn’t allow the previous day’s heartbreak to affect its performance like it did last year. West Valley bested the Storm 3-0 a year ago, and Squalicum was by no means going to let history repeat itself.

“Last year, we were a wreck the next day,” said sophomore forward Kim Hazlett. “We were just so conquered and upset losing in PKs to Sumner (last year), and I am so proud my team was able to pick their heads up and we were able to just come out and play how we play.”

At the onset of Saturday’s game, though, the Storm looked to be fighting demons from the previous night’s loss. The offense struggled to get legitimate attempts against a stingy West Valley defense, and matters got even worse when the Rams snuck a ball past Squalicum keeper Lauren Eckert for a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.

West Valley played a ball from the midfield down the left hashes, and Eckert broke away from the net to corral it. As Eckert neared it, she slid, and that’s when West Valley’s Abigail Gaulke tipped it past her, and it trickled into the empty net.

Again, like the night before, Squalicum found itself in an early 1-0 hole.

“We were a little slower at the beginning,” Kish said. “Lauren called (Rachel Dorr) off, and that’s what your keeper is supposed to do.”

Squalicum’s offense wasn’t without its quality tries. Rams’ keeper Stephanie Brown twice robbed the Storm in the first half with saves that few goalies in the state would have been able to make.

In what proved to be her most impressive save, Brown plucked Braeden Hilleary’s wide-open attempt out of the air while diving to her right. Hilleary took the shot from about 5 yards out.

Just moments later, Hazlett watched a kick from the middle of the box to the left corner get snagged by Brown one hand. Hazlett, too, lifted her hands in disbelief.

“Hands down to their keeper, her hands were amazing,” Kish said. “I was like, ‘Alright, she has Stickum spray on her gloves or something.’”

The naturally-aggressive Hazlett said she never wavered in her belief that the Storm would find the net sooner or later.

She was right, and it was Hazlett who tied the game up at 1-1, when she received a cross from Julia DeVere in the 50th minute. Brown’s only mistake came when she over pursued DeVere’s cross, leaving Hazlett an open net to tie the game.

Finally, Squalicum had a break fall its way.

“We practice those, and I was happy to see the girls connected,” Kish said.

Hazlett added: “I was just trying to get on it and finish it. … We knew the keeper was very tall, so we had to finish it not in the air, and we went out and did that.”

The match’s physical play was indicative of a 1-1 game with a state trophy on the line. Bodies hit the ground — Hazlett’s and Hilleary’s gracing the green turf most often — with West Valley even being issued a yellow card after a nasty collision that left Squalicum’s Sarah Byron face down on the turf for a few moments.

The Storm was able to produce consistent pressure during the latter part of the second half and two legitimate tries in both overtime periods, but the game’s decision would be left to penalty kicks.

The Rams’ Taylor Karnes placed a shot in to the upper right-corner to put West Valley up 1-0.

Storm senior captain Lauren Gibb answered with a similar shot past a diving Brown.

“I’ve always liked taking PKs. I like the pressure, and I think I do better under pressure,” Gibb said. “I think going first, I am able to do that. And as a leader, I put that kind of nervousness behind us and keep everyone confident in our kicks.”

After Squalicum and West Valley traded goals, the Rams’ Gaulke would be the first to crack. She kicked a low shot to the right, and Eckert made a diving save to give the Storm a chance for the lead. Kim Dorr didn’t miss.

In a make-or-break shot, West Valley’s Lauryn Peters let the ball sail high. Byron planted the ball in to the back of the net on the next try, turned and ran toward her team after sealing the win.

The Storm graduates five seniors — Gibb, Eckert, Gracie Slater, Lizzy Herda and Brittany Peters — who helped build the Squalicum into one of the best in 2A.

“I just got really emotionally about it because I really am going to miss this team,” Gibb said. “It doesn’t feel real. … (For) the other seniors who have been with the program for four years, it’s just really special to have had an impact and to be a part of the two years that we made history.”

SQUALICUM 2, YAKIMA WEST VALLEY 1 (4-2)

Goal: Abigail Gaulke (West Valley), Assist: NA, Time: 24:00; Goal: Kim Hazlett (Squalicum), Assist: Braeden Hilleary, Time: 50:00. Shots on goal: West Valley (6), Squalicum (16); Saves: Stephanie Brown (West Valley) 6, Lauren Eckert (Squalicum) 3.

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