When Bellingham’s girls’ soccer defender Alice Hiebert sliced her penalty kick wide right in the 50th minute, it looked like it just wasn’t the Red Raiders’ day.
Even as the scoreboard clock ticked down to two minutes, it still looked like the Red Raiders were on the wrong side of fate. Bellingham had dominated to that point, out-shooting Archbishop Murphy 8-3 but the score remained even at 0-0.
Of course in soccer, all it takes is one moment of brilliance and fortunes can change.
In the 79th minute that brilliance came out for Bellingham. Kylie Clark sent in a 30-yard diagonal cross into the box, where Kayla Heidenreich was waiting.
Heidenreich quickly tapped it over the charging goalkeeper to give the No. 4-seeded Red Raiders the 1-0 win over No. 5 Archbishop Murphy Saturday, Nov. 1, at Civic Stadium in the first round of the 2A district tournament.
“I just knew that we had to get a goal to advance,” Heidenreich said. “I just saw her kicking it and I just really, really wanted that one.”
The goal was long-awaited for the Red Raiders, who had their fair share of opportunities in the very physical contest, which featured two Bellingham yellow cards.
There were also 18 fouls between both teams and plenty of tussling after the whistle.
But Bellingham coach Mark Wright knows that’s just what was intended heading into Saturday’s contest.
“We kind of thought going in that if we played physically, we’d have the best chance to be successful,” Wright said. “I thought we took a couple dumb ones when we were going too physical thinking that’s physical.”
While yellow cards may be the detractor of physical play, Wright looks at the other side of the coin — winning 50-50 balls.
And midfielders Mia Hodges, Hattie North, Paige McAtee and Hiebert are some of the best in the league at giving it their all, all the time.
“Those are girls that kind of push our physicality,” Wright said. “All the effort plays that we win give us a better chance to win.”
Of course, even the best of players have their off days and early on Hodges and North weren’t at their best, Wright said. North was taken off in the fourth minute and was getting help from the trainer with wrapping her ankle.
She returned just a few minutes later, but once again had to leave the field when she went up for a header and was met with an Archbishop’s player’s head.
North immediately went to the ground, where she remained clutched over for a couple minutes while Wright attended to her. She ended up walking off the field but remained standing for a few minutes behind the bench.
“Both of our target players — Mia and Hattie — were both having a hard time getting their wind at the beginning of the game,” Wright said. “So we had to rotate pretty heavily there right at the beginning of the game. I’m really proud of the girls that went in because they held it.”
The last-minute win is also a little something different for the Red Raiders, who Wright says have been on the other side of that a few times before. Bellingham had two one-goal losses — one to Sehome, the other to Squalicum — early in the season.
“We know how heartbreaking it is. For us, it was heart-soaring today,” Wright said. “It was like banging on the door, banging on the door, banging on the door and just our girls were gassed. ... When you get that goal you’ve been working so hard for the whole game, it’s a great reward.”
Of course the reward is facing Squalicum on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at Civic Stadium in the district semifinal. The winner will clinch a state berth.
The Squalicum-Bellingham rivalry reached epic proportions when the Red Raiders topped the Storm in last year’s state semifinals. Since then, the Red Raiders have lost 1-0 and 4-1 games to Squalicum.
“They’ve had our number,” Wright said. “We know when we play them, it’s going to take a real special night for us to be successful.”
Wright gives plenty of respect to the Storm team that won its first round game 5-0 Saturday.
“They have everything you want in a team,” Wright said. “We just got to hope that our grit and fire and guts will be what help us get over the lip there. ... We might not be the most talented, but we’re gonna come at you hard and play the game as hard as we can every second.”
Bellingham 1, Archbishop Murphy 0