The first iteration of Squalicum vs. Bellingham wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t lack the atmosphere of a meaningful soccer game.
That’s to be expected when you pit the state runner-up Red Raiders against the very Storm team they sent home in the semifinals a year ago in stunning fashion.
But Thursday night, Sept. 11, belonged to Squalicum, which exorcised some demons by defeating Bellingham 1-0 in a nonconference matchup that won’t affect either team’s Northwest Conference championship hopes.
“It’s so emotional and there’s a lot on the line,” Storm junior forward Kim Dorr said. “Just show how you are going to be playing the rest of the season and put your mark to set the tone. ... I think that’s what we did tonight.”
The Red Raiders suffered their second loss in as many games to a city rival, first falling to Sehome 2-0 on Tuesday.
The sky, shockingly, isn’t falling, all-league midfielder Mia Hodges said despite the difficult 0-2 start.
“We’re focusing on the fact that our league record is still 0-0,” Hodges said, “and right now we’re focusing on making sure we nail down our style of play, and I think our energy coming out this week has been great.”
Bellingham has yet to score in either game, while on the other side Squalicum had no such trouble creating plenty of offensive opportunities between the likes of Kim Hazlett and Dorr, who combined for 38 goals last season.
Dorr was the one to burst through with her first goal of the season, receiving a 35-yard outlet pass from senior Michelle Saunders up the right side. Dorr employed her dangerous speed in chasing down the pass before launching a shot from 15 yards out into the upper-left corner of the goal past the outstretched arms of Haley Nichols.
“I just found my space and I really like just taking my speed and using it to my advantage,” Dorr said. “I heard people calling for it (the pass), but I tried to take it because last game I didn’t get as many shots off as I wanted to.”
While Dorr’s goal was the difference, the Storm outshot the Red Raiders 18-5, many of which were opportunities both Hazlett and Dorr would want back.
The league leader in goals last season, with 20, had four shot attempts in the first half alone that scooted just outside the frame, each time causing Nichols to extend herself and try to make a save. The most dangerous, and given the timing humorous, attempt came in the 72nd minute when Hazlett’s shot hit the right post and deflected out.
A good problem to have, sort of.
“That’s the great thing in having both Kim’s back this year,” Squalicum coach David Kish said. “Our offense knows how to play with each other. Obviously they know how to play — they are quality and they know how to make shots.”
It was a different pace for Bellingham, which despite falling to Sehome earlier in the week dominated possession against the Mariners and pushed the offensive flow. That wasn’t the case against the Storm, which held Burlington-Edison scoreless on Tuesday with a similarly-as-strong defensive effort.
“They have a lot of talent and it’s sometimes hard to string together a bunch of passes and stay connected,” Hodges said.
In so many ways, Thursday’s matchup was similar to the state semifinal a year ago when the Red Raiders found a way to stick around. The two contrasting styles of the two teams, Hodges said, with Squalicum being more finesse against Bellingham’s gritty nature will always make for a game like that.
“I think Squalicum makes us uncomfortable, and we make Squalicum uncomfortable,” she said.
Added Wright: “If we can play with them — if we can hang and keep it that kind of goal differential and give ourselves that kind of chance, got to feel pretty proud of what we did. ... We just battled, battled, battled.”
Nichols in goal turned away several strong attempts by both Dorr and Hazlett, the main one being a point-blank header from Dorr early in the second half that she collected out of mid air. Her play kept the game closer than it seemed.
Both teams are in action Saturday, Sept. 14, with Squalicum facing Sehome at 7 p.m. at Civic Stadium, while Bellingham looks to get its first win when it faces Shorecrest at 6 p.m. at Shoreline Stadium.
Squalicum 1, Bellingham 0