The third meeting between Squalicum and Bellingham proved heartbreaking for the Storm last year. Squalicum lost in the state semifinal match 2-1, ending the Storm’s shot at a state title.
Squalicum was determined not to let the third meeting letdown happen again in 2014. After two wins in the regular season, the Storm topped the Red Raiders 2-0 in the Class 2A District Tournament on Tuesday, Nov. 4, at Civic Stadium.
“I think its hilarious that a lot of people I talked to said ‘Oh it’s hard to beat a team three times’ and last year, the third time was their game,” Squalicum coach David Kish said. “So, yeah, it sits in the back of your head. But my girls didn’t let it bother them. They came out and battled from the start.”
In the first three minutes, the Storm didn’t allow the Red Raiders out of their own half of the field. Bellingham consistently gave the ball away to the onslaught of pressure from Kim Hazlett, Braeden Hilleary and Kim Dorr.
In the third minute, the Storm capitalized. Hilleary got behind the Red Raiders’ defense, delivered a pass to Kim Dorr, who slotted it past Bellingham goalkeeper Chloe Campbell.
“Our whole goal when we were in the locker room was to come out with intensity and not let them get in our heads and just play our game,” Dorr said. “We just came out so hard and we wanted it so bad in that first five minutes.”
For Bellingham, which prefers the grind-it-out physical style of play, it was a gamechanger. In the first few minutes of the game, the Red Raiders were without key midfielder Hattie North, a player that plays a huge role in relieving pressure from the back.
The lack of North in the early proceedings really hurt the Red Raiders, Bellingham coach Mark Wright said.
“You could tell her absence at the beginning of the game, we were just kind of lost in the circus,” Wright said. “Obviously not having our energizer on the field in Hattie had a lot to do with (us coming out flat).”
North entered the game about five minutes in and the game from then on was much more back and forth. The Squalicum side still dominated the shots on goal 9-3, but much of the game was played in the middle of the field.
And, as is custom in Bellingham-Squalicum games, there were a lot of fouls — 26 between the two teams.
But something was different this time around about the way Squalicum responded to the physical nature of the rivalry.
“Earlier this season, the other two games, we would start to fall into that play, saying ‘Oh, we need to play physical,’” Kish said. “My girls today said ‘No, we’re going to play our game’ and I thought they set the tone early.”
Of course, the physical nature of the game still popped up from both teams and well, Squalicum is OK with that.
“It’s always a rivalry when we play them. So it’s just nice to play hard against them. Theres definitely a lot of competition and roughness when we play,” Dorr said. “We are a physical team but that’s not what we rely on. It’s really nice when we can play fast and avoid that physicality.”
Play fast is exactly what the Storm did to start the second half.
Two minutes into the second half, a free kick from Michelle Saunders landed perfectly to Sarah Byron, who headed it into the bottom corner to make it 2-0.
It was yet again a case of coming out of the lockers flat for Bellingham and it’s something coach Wright isn’t sure why happened.
“I don’t know what that was tonight,” Wright said. “It just didn’t seem like we were mentally ready to go. I’ll take responsibility for some of that and I’ll just try to make sure that we’re mentally ready on Thursday.”
The Red Raiders will face Sehome in a winner-to-state, loser-out game on Thursday, Nov. 6. The game will likely be played at Civic Stadium.
Squalicum, on the other hand, clinches its third consecutive state berth, but will play Shorecrest in the district championship Saturday, Nov. 8, at Shoreline Stadium.
“It’s so great. It’s so fun to just be able to see what we can do as a team,” Dorr said. “Getting this far and doing this well currently, it’s just been so amazing.”
Squalicum 2, Bellingham 0