After achieving what she called a “serious dream,” fourth-year Bellingham standout Peyton Schwinger also aptly described the Red Raiders’ 3-2 Northwest Conference girls soccer win over Squalicum on Tuesday at Civic Stadium.
“I knew (coming into the season) we could do some big things, but this feels like we did the impossible,” Schwinger said of Bellingham’s first win over Squalicum since the Red Raiders upset the Storm in the 2013 Class 2A state semifinals.
Now, though, Squalicum is Class 3A, so this was the last chance to create a golden memory for Schwinger and her team’s other two seniors, Allison Krell and Lucy Mantha.
Hodge strikes twice
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Bellingham (5-1-0, 3-0 NWC) got two goals from sophomore midfielder Hannah Hodge – her second and third of the season – plus Schwinger’s eighth goal. The Raiders received a solid five-save effort by sophomore Mia Ludwig, a first-year high school goalie but with club experience in goal.
Hodge’s header on a perfect corner kick by Krell in the fourth minute put Bellingham up 1-0, but the Storm equalized in the 29th minute on a short goal by Mariana Madera off an assist by Dakota Carson, who made the score possible by hustling for a rebound.
Schwinger’s goal on a outstanding on-the-run angle assist from Jillian Langei made it 2-1 in the final seconds of the first half, giving the Red Raiders just the mental boost they needed. Hodge then scored on a beautiful 30-yard unassisted angle shot for a 3-1 lead in the 48th minute.
Senior standout Natalie Shikany pulled Squalicum (4-1-1, 2-1) within the final one-goal margin when she raced for a long through ball by Madera and scored with 15 minutes remaining. But Shikany was injured two minutes later and hobbled off, although she returned to gut out the final six minutes.
Squalicum goalie Miranda Rodriguez gave the Storm a shot with four saves, including an outstanding stop of a bullet by Schwinger with 13 minutes remaining.
Stars full of praise
“Hannah is our strongest player in the middle,” Schwinger said. “She wins every ball in the air.”
In return, Hodge responded, “Peyton just brings everything to our team, with her passing and attitude.”
New Bellingham head coach Jared Fields, the girls team’s assistant for 16 years, has taken over for Mark Wright. Fields called his first game against the Storm “a fantastic game in which both teams played really well. I think we’re slaying some demons we’ve had the past couple of years. I’m really happy with our defense.”
Both Squalicum, which was in its first year back in 3A last season, and Bellingham lost winner-to-state games last autumn in the district playoffs. Fields and second-year Storm coach Jose Rodriguez are hungry for better results.
“I think we battled, but at times we got out of synch,” Rodriguez said. “It was no surprise – it’s always competitive with these teams. But as I told our girls, ‘If there’s any team that can bounce back from this loss, it’s you guys.’ ”