Squalicum afforded itself the luxury of enjoying literal wins.
Bellingham, conversely, navigated a terrible five-game stretch and emerged on the other end having to take pleasure in more metaphorical victories, starting the year 0-5 but knowing it won’t have to face either Sehome or Squalicum for the remainder of the season.
The Storm only furthered the argument that it again should be the favorite to claim another Northwest Conference title, defeating the state runner-up Red Raiders 4-1 on Thursday night, Sept. 18, at Civic Stadium.
“They’ve been our biggest competitor the last couple seasons, so it’s been really great just going out and beating them twice in a row,” senior Storm defender Michelle Saunders said. “It’s a great confidence booster.”
Squalicum improved to 5-0, getting past Bellingham, the same team that handed it a 2-1 loss in the state semifinals a year ago - coincidentally the Red Raiders’ last win.
And while Bellingham is reeling from a difficult start to the season, losing to Sehome and Squalicum twice and Shorecrest in between, all is not lost. Far from it for a team that prided itself on resiliency last year.
“The Bataan death march has been completed,” Bellingham coach Mark Wright said. “We knew this was going to be a really tough stretch, so now we’re done with it, and now it’s up to us if we want to put the season where we want to put it. We have to make sure all the effort we spit out on the field for five games was not just a futile deal.”
Squalicum saw again how potent its offense can be, looking more crisp and rhythmic after mustering just one goal against the Red Raiders a week ago. Kim Dorr, who pairs with Kim Hazlett up front to be the best 1-2 scoring combo in the league, gave the Storm an early lead after planting a header into the back of the net off a Saunders corner.
Dorr, who stands above most at 5-foot-9, had no trouble elevating for the put away.
“I just try to get it into the center because we have big players who get their head on the ball,” Saunders said. “They are really aggressive in the middle of the box.”
The Red Raiders were without all-league midfielder Hattie North, who got injured against Sehome Tuesday. Her absence was glaring when Bellingham went on the attack. The Red Raiders struggled for much of the first half staying connected and pushing forward against the Storm’s stout back line.
Squalicum distanced itself to begin the second when junior forward Braeden Hilleary flicked a shot past Chloe Campbell for a 2-0 lead in the 47th minute. It was Hilleary’s third goal in as many games, adding yet another element to a Storm offense that’s scored 17 goals in just five games.
“She just gets after it,” Squalicum coach David Kish said. “She’s playing with a really dynamite offensive line ... and she’s great with the ball at her feet.”
Hazlett, fresh off a three-goal performance against Nooksack Valley on Tuesday, was shadowed by senior defender Emma Brice for much of the game. The two are familiar with one another, Brice drawing the same assignment in the state semifinals and in their meeting earlier this year.
The junior Storm forward finally broke through Brice’s clutches, though, when she whipped a shot from the top of the box for a 3-0 lead in the 65th minute.
Bellingham’s Kayla Heidenreich scored the Red Raiders’ lone goal off a rebound from a Mia Hodges free kick in the 76th minute, but a Payton Fowler goal two minutes later capped the 4-1 win.
“We’re starting to find our rhythm,” Kish said. “It’s starting to happen, especially in the first half. There’s a couple times where you could just see it’s two touches and banging the ball around and then try to finish.”
Wright emphasized the need for a victory against Meridian this Saturday, saying his team has to feel what it’s like to come out on top. The Red Raiders host the Trojans at 1 p.m. at Civic in a nonleague game.
Squalicum looks to continue its winning ways with a nonconference matchup against Cedarcrest at 5 p.m., Saturday, at Whatcom Community College.
Goal: Kim Dorr (Squalicum), assist: Michelle Saunders, time 21:00; Goal: Braeden Hilleary (Squalicum), assist: Payton Fowler, time 47:00; Goal: Kim Hazlett (Squalicum), assist: NA, time 65:00; Goal: Kayla Heidenreich (Bellingham), assist: NA, time 76:00; Goal: Payton Fowler (Squalicum), assist: NA, time 78:00. Goalies (saves) — Bellingham: Chloe Campbell (5); Squalicum: Rachel Runners (2). Shots on goal — Bellingham 4, Squalicum 11.
The spelling of Bataan was corrected Sept. 19, 2014.