So close, and yet so far away.
No fewer than 10 Whatcom County girls’ soccer, volleyball and football teams survived the Northwest District gauntlet to advance to their respective state tournaments and now find themselves only four wins away from their ultimate goal — a state title.
Of course the four games or four matches between each team and a state title figure to be the most challenging of the season, but with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s release of the state brackets on Sunday and Monday, Nov. 9-10, teams could at least begin plotting their paths.
Here is a look at what lies ahead for the 10 Whatcom County teams still alive as state play opens this week:
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The road to a third-straight trip to the Class 2A final four for Squalicum will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 12, with a 7 p.m. game against Olympic at Civic Stadium.
The Storm (18-0-1) won the Northwest Conference and 2A Northwest District titles this year and hope those are just appetizers for a state title that has eluded them the past two years. Two-time defending champion Sumner, who knocked Squalicum off in the semifinal in 2012 is now in Class 3A, meaning there will be a new champ this year. Crosstown rival Bellingham, who knocked the Storm off in last year’s semifinal, fell one win short of making it to state, as well.
But Squalicum knows its work is still cut out for it. Olympic (15-4-1) beat Fife 2-1 to earn the No. 5 seed out of District 2/3 after finishing second to North Kitsap in the 2A Olympic League standings. The Trojans lost to Lake Washington in the first round of last year’s state tournament.
The winner will host a quarterfinal meeting against the winner of the first round game between Hockinson (14-4-1)and North Kitsap (15-3-1).
On the other half of the 2A bracket, Sehome (11-5-3) enters as the No. 4 seed out of the Northwest District, meaning it will have to travel to face District 2/3 top seed Issaquah Liberty at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Patriots are the defending Class 3A state champions and have made it to the state semifinals each of the past three years. The Patriots (8-5-3) finished fourth in the 3A/2A KingCo this year and beat North Kitsap in a shootout in the District 2/3 championship game.
If Sehome can survive, it would host the winner between Black Hills (13-5-2) and Shorecrest (15-4-0) in the quarterfinals.
In the Class 1A bracket, Northwest District No. 2 seed Meridian (10-6-2) drew District 3 top seed Seattle Christian (13-2-1) in a game that will be played at 5 p.m. Wednesday at French Field in Kent.
Seattle Christian won the Nisqually League title, before beating Klahowya 1-0 for the district title. The Warriors lost in the first round against King’s last year, but played for a state title in 2012.
The quarterfinals offer a match up against either Montesano (17-1) or King’s (17-1-1), and defending 1A champion University Prep could lurk in the semifinals, should the Trojans make it through.
Ferndale advanced to the Class 3A State Tournament for the second straight year and the third time since 2010, but the Golden Eagles (14-4) are seeking their first match win at state since 1993. As the No. 3 seed out of the Northwest District, their first chance will come at 8 a.m. Friday, Nov. 12, against Capital (17-1). The 3A tournament will be held at Saint Martin’s University and Timberline High School.
The Cougars were the 2A runners up last year, and after winning the 3A Narrows League title, they suffered their first loss of the season to Columbia River in the District 3/4 Tournament semifinals and settled for the No. 3 seed.
Ferndale will meet either Eastside Catholic (12-9) or Edmonds-Woodway (13-4) in its second match (either the state quarterfinals or consolation first round), and top-ranked Mercer Island is on the other side of the bracket.
No. 2 Sehome (17-0) drew White River (10-5) in an 8 a.m. first-round pairing on Friday at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom in Lakewood. The Mariners have designs on improving upon their fourth-place trophy from last year at state after they won the Northwest Conference and 2A Northwest District titles this year.
The Hornets make their first appearance at state since 2012, when they were swept by Sehome in a consolation first round match. They finished fourth in the South Puget Sound League, before beating Olympic to claim the fifth seed out of District 3.
Either Ridgefield (15-2) or No. 7 Fife (14-5) await in the second round, and both defending champion Burlington-Edison and top-ranked Tumwater are on the opposite side of the bracket from the Mariners.
After claiming the Northwest District’s No. 2 seed, Lynden Christian (15-2) will open its 18th straight trip to a state tournament by playing Kalama (17-2) at 9:45 a.m. Friday at the Yakima Valley SunDome in the first round of the 1A State Tournament.
The Chinooks, who won the Trico League title and the District 4 championship, are making their fifth straight trip to state, but they have only one win — a first-round victory over Forest Ridge last year — during that span.
Either Freeman (17-2) or defending state champion Leavenworth Cascade (15-2) await in the second round.
For the first time, the WIAA is hosting a 16-team field in the Class 1B ranks.
Lummi (7-3), which beat Rainier Christian 54-8 in a play-in game on Friday, Nov. 7, will now travel to the southern edge of the state to face District 4 top seed Lyle-Wishram (5-3) at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14.
While Lummi is making its 11th-straight trip to the state playoffs and will attempt to make it to the Tacoma Dome for a fifth time in six years, the Cougars made their first appearance at state last year a memorable one, as they won the 1B state title.
Friday night’s winner will host either Lopez (7-2) or Evergreen Lutheran (5-3), while top-ranked Neah Bay, which already has two wins over Lummi this year, could await in the semifinals.
As expected, Northwest District top seed Mount Baker (8-2) drew Montesano for a 1A first-round game, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Civic Stadium. Mount Baker beat Cedar Park Christian 70-13 in a district playoff game last week.
The Bulldogs (6-3) are not the same team that beat the Mountaineers in the 2012 state semifinals, as they finished second to Eatonville in the Evergreen League and enter as the District 4 No. 3 seed. Monte was a first-round exit from the state playoffs last year, but it is making its ninth-straight appearance in the state bracket.
The winner will get to host the winner between Charles Wright (4-5) and Eatonville (9-0) in the quarterfinals, and top-ranked Cascade Christian could await in the state semifinals.
Northwest District No. 3 seed Squalicum (8-2) comes off an impressive 44-16 win over Archbishop Murphy and will make its first appearance in the 2A state playoffs in a game scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Friday at Orting.
After finishing fifth in the 2A South Puget Sound League standings, the Cardinals (5-5) beat Lindbergh 17-14 on Friday to claim the No. 3 seed out of District 2/3. Orting is making its third-straight trip to state, but is seeking its first win since a first-round victory over Woodland in 2005.
Friday’s winner will travel to play either Fife (7-3) or top-ranked Tumwater (10-0).
Third-ranked Lynden (9-1) is on the other side of the bracket, setting up the possibility of a third-consecutive meeting between the Lions and Thunderbirds for the 2A state title.
Lynden, which won the NWC title and beat Shorecrest 42-7 in the district playoffs, will open its quest for a four-peat title at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15, at Civic Stadium when it hosts River Ridge (9-1).
Though the Hawks needed a 57-14 victory over North Mason to grab the fifth seed out of District 3, they finished tied with Franklin Pierce for the SPSL title. River Ridge is making its first appearance at stance since 1998.
Saturday’s winner will host Hockinson (10-0) or North Kitsap (10-0) in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Ellensburg also is on Lynden’s side of the bracket.