Bellingham found itself in the unfamiliar position of being the hunted and no longer the hunter.
The Red Raiders rode a momentous late-season run to the Class 2A state championship a year ago, entering this season with most of its roster intact and a target placed squarely on their backs.
Sehome was the first to get a crack at the defending runner-ups, and while Bellingham dominated possession and out-shot the Mariners 12-6, it was Sehome that walked away with the 2-0 win Tuesday night, Sept. 9, at Civic Stadium.
"It's definitely motivation, especially because they beat us to go on," said Sehome junior forward Abby Webster, alluding to the 1-0 loss Bellingham handed the Mariners to end their season in bi-districts last year. "I think we wanted this win more than we ever have. They got second in state, for one, and we've just taken it more serious this year."
Bellingham didn't lack any energy early.
The Red Raiders came out the aggressors, running their offense through the midfield and getting two strong tries in the first three minutes against Mariners keeper Nicole Carlson. Brooke Baker's shot from the left side was tracked well by Carlson, who came up with the early snag.
That early aggressiveness, though, came back to bite Bellingham. Sehome quickly turned an offensive attack by the Red Raiders into a counter when senior all-league forward Stephanie Mindnich broke free down the left side, maneuvering her way to the corner before sending a cross perfectly to the feet of Webster. Webster one-touched it past Haley Nichols for a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute.
"We were a little panicky at first, but I think we relaxed," Sehome coach Andria Fountain said. "It was nice to get that first goal. Got a little confidence there and settled in."
What was a loud and raucous Red Raider-heavy crowd went silent.
"I thought we were jacked out of our minds at the beginning of the game," Bellingham coach Mark Wright said. "We got ourselves in position a couple times early where obviously we were pushing so hard to score and they gained possession and countered."
Bellingham, though, is no stranger to playing from behind - the Red Raiders orchestrating many of their wins during their state run in come-from-behind fashion. The shots on goal continued to come, but what was a problem last year for Wright's club crept up again.
"It's a deal where we found some magic at the end of last year in the middle of the season we didn't have. We had some trouble scoring, which we had tonight," he said. "We would maintain possession of the ball, but we would have trouble finishing, which happened again."
Fountain, admittedly, didn't entirely know what to expect of her team entering this non-league matchup. She revamped her defense, for the most part, and was starting a new sweeper in Ilana Pechthalt. Pechthalt didn't show any first-game jitters, holding together the Mariners back line and continuing to bend, but never breaking.
Legitimate tries were few and far between for Sehome for much of the game. Bellingham's offense, which ran through midfielders Mia Hodges and Hattie North, continued to pressure Sehome's back line.
Their most dangerous attempt came in the 50th minute when Paige McAtee's corner found Hodges' head, the ball then ricocheting off the top bar and into Camryn Ranson's hands.
Sehome again countered 12 minutes later when Christina Funk lofted a shot over Nichols' head for the 2-0 lead.
"I think last year I felt like we had the skills and abilities, but not the confidence," Fountain said. "This win I think is just going to give them that confidence. ... They have the skills and abilities to rise up and it doesn't matter who our opponent is."
Bellingham faces Squalicum in a state semifinal rematch on Thursday, Sept. 11, at Civic, while Sehome faces Ferndale at the Northwest Soccer Park. Both are non-league games.