SEDRO-WOOLLEY - Squalicum's bitter relationship with the Class 2A Bi-District boys' soccer tournament is now a distant memory.
The Storm, after losing in the district championship game twice over the past three seasons, captured the elusive trophy after defeating Anacortes 2-0 on Saturday, May 17, at Sedro-Woolley High School, washing away the sting of the past few seasons.
"I think we worked all year for it, so it means a lot to our team, definitely," said junior midfielder Zach Wallace, who scored Squalicum's first goal in the 10th minute. "We haven't had this happen for a while, and last season we went two-and-out in districts, so we never had a chance. It's kind of been a dream for us all season."
So was advancing to the state tournament, which the Storm did sporting an undefeated 17-0-2 overall record. Squalicum will host its first-round game either Monday, May 19, or Tuesday, May 20, with the Storm's opponent still being an unknown. Likewise, Anacortes advanced, although the Seahawks' route will likely start on the road.
Squalicum's season has largely been an exercise in depth, with Wallace's goal only emphasizing the mass amounts of talent McAuliffe has at his disposal.
The junior midfielder entered the championship game with only three goals to his credit, but a perfectly-placed free kick from Hans Kogan gave him the opportunity to add to his total. Wallace made the run along the left side of the field, heading in the Storm's first goal in the 10th minute.
"I'm just trying to find the open man," said Kogan, who's the team's starting centerback. "(He) was open on the first kick I took on the same spot, and I didn't put it to him, and I saw him on the run and he finished that ball."
Wallace made his way through the box only to find that neither the Seahawk defenders or keeper were making a play on Kogan's ball, leaving the window open for him to sneak through.
Gabe Guidroz accounted for the second goal in the 41st minute when we placed a shot past Anacortes keeper Dane Lukasik off a throw-in from Quinn Carpenter.
Christian Chala and Guidroz lead the Storm with nine goals apiece, and six other's have at least four goals, displaying just how difficult the Storm can be on the offensive end.
"We don't rely on one or two. That's our strength. We have so much depth that they feel comfortable moving the ball," McAuliffe said. "They are not funneling the ball to one person. It's a style of play. If it doesn't work, (we) back it up and reset."
From there, Squalicum's defense clamped down and only allowed three shots on goal in the second half, adding to its streak of 12 straight games without allowing a goal.
Much of the credit falls on the keeper Trenton Langer and the backline of Kogan, B.J. James and Spencer Wallace, but it's been the play of the midfielders that McAuliffe said has been key to the Storm not allowing a goal since April 8.
"I just love the fact that they all defend as a team," McAuliffe said. "They all get back. I keep saying that, but my philosophy is that you have a team that is willing to defend and do that hard work to get the ball then be creative."
Langer, who largely went untested throughout much of the regular season, was challenged on several occasions by Anacortes' front line. The Seahawks entered play leading the Northwest Conference with 67 regular-season goals, but they watched Langer snatch three throw-ins out of the air that presented strong scoring opportunities.
But in keeping with the tone of the season, he or Kogan or James defused any real threats.
"He saved our butts multiple times," Kogan said of Langer. "He's been having a great season. Two great saves in the first half and then again right there at the end, definitely feels great to have him."
Added McAuliffe: "Because of (Langer's) shoulders, and he's a thick boy, he can break through things. ... Every time, his timing was perfect, and his judgment of the trajectory. He took the risk and stepped in front of them. He made great choices with them."
With the talent of team's only increasing going into state, Squalicum is going to rely on him more and more, McAuliffe said, which is perfectly fine.
Reach Alex Bigelow at email@example.com or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
SQUALICUM 2, ANACORTES 0
Goal: Zach Wallace (Squalicum), assist Hans Kogan: time: 10:00; Goal: Gabe Guidroz (Squalicum), assist Quinn Carpenter: time: 41:00. Shots on goal: Anacortes 6; Squalicum 10. Goalies (saves) Anacortes: Dane Lukasik (7); Squalicum: Trenton Langer (5).