With the boys’ soccer season coming to an end, I thought it best to look back and pick my favorite story lines of the year. Of course, Squalicum winning a title is at the top, but the season was rife with other great moments. Here’s a look my three favorite:
1. It’s not that Squalicum won a 2A title – it’s how the Storm did it. Squalicum didn’t just win – it presented an argument that the Storm 2013-14 squad could beat any team in the state, no matter the classification. And while my experience covering soccer in this area isn’t vast, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the most dominant season any one team has put together in Northwest Conference history. Again, I’m not pulling from much, but it’s hard to see any other team having better shear statistics: A 79-5 goal differential to end the season; 16 consecutive shutouts; 19-0 goal differential in state; and my personal favorite – The Storm only trailed for 18 minutes all season. That means of the 1,840 minutes in regulation Squalicum played this season, it was only looking up at a deficit for .009 percent of the time. Yup. Impressive.
2. Blaine going to its first state tournament. Nobody would have thought that by the end of the 1A season, the Blaine boys’ soccer team would have made it to state. Not only was the program firmly planted in an era defined by losing, but it was going under a coaching change, as well. Giovanni Quesada found the right buttons, but he also had some outstanding seniors that willed this team to be better, and none were more important than Nick Butschli and Garren Economy. Butschli led all Whatcom County players with 13 goals this season, and Economy set the physical tone for the Borderites. The two complemented each other well, Butschli being more of a finesse player to Economy’s brash style in the midfield. But when the team needed them most, they performed like the senior leaders they were, possibly changing the tide for the program’s future. All the underclassmen have now tasted what it’s like to win on a big stage, and that’s experience do the program well moving forward.
3. Sehome’s Sam Diehl making through a complete season. The Mariners didn’t get their storybook ending, but at very least the team saw its senior captain Sam Diehl make his way off the field for the last time May 15 under his own power. The talented, 6-foot-3 centerback suffered broken ankles in each of his sophomore and junior years, finally being able to stay healthy for a complete season. He was rewarded, too, with the game-winning goal against Bellingham on April 17, the same game a year earlier that he suffered the second of his two broken ankles. Following the Mariners’ 1-0 win over rival Bellingham, Sehome coach John Sylvester said of Diehl: “This is one of the best games I’ve ever seen a centerback play. Not only was he a great leader and played flawless defense and helped the rest of the players play flawless, but he scored that magnificent free kick. He was really the heart and soul of the team today.” No greater praise could be offered.