Squalicum did not score against either of its city rivals in Northwest Conference boys’ soccer games.
But the defending Class 2A state champion Storm did not lose either contest.
Thus, Squalicum’s 0-0 tie against Sehome on Monday, April 6 — before what may have been the smallest league crowd in the series history at Civic Stadium — extended the Storm’s unbeaten streak to 32 games, including the first nine this season.
The Storm (6-0-3 overall, 3-0-2 NWC), which played a scoreless NWC tie against Bellingham March 26, received plenty of credit for defensive excellence from Sehome coach John Sylvester.
“We did some very creative, crafty things on offense, and we almost got through, but Squalicum did that little bit extra of whatever it is that makes them so tough on defense,” said Sylvester.
“We’re getting closer (to becoming an offensive threat),” said the veteran Sehome coach, who once again was without standout senior striker Zach Wanne. He is sidelined with a hip injury.
Indeed, Sehome (3-2-3, 2-1-2) was frustrated by four fine saves by Storm goalkeeper Owen Davis-Bower.
His third save denied Mason Rathkamp on a dead-on 30-yard shot in the 21st minute. The junior keeper’s fourth save prevented Jack Willis from scoring in the 45th minute on a power shot from 25 yards out.
Sehome keeper Devin Trueb was called on to make only two saves, but they were big — against Quinn Carpenter in the 29th minute, and on the first shot during a mad bit of chaos that excited the small crowd in the 72nd minute.
The Storm seemed poised to break through, but at least four separate touches near the goal failed, including a last desperate shot over the bar.
“Squalicum knows its bread and butter is defense,” said Sylvester.
Assistant coach Jose Rodriguez handled the team with head coach Joe McAuliffe and no fewer than eight varsity players, including four starters, out of town on the week-long break following Easter.
Indeed, when Eli Guidroz was forced out with a twisted ankle in the first half, the Storm had only two substitutes available. They started the game with only 14 players.
“Eli tried hard to stay in there,” said Rodriguez, who praised sophomore substitute Ramon Beltran for his contributions. “Eli is a real tough kid.”
Rodriguez thought both teams deserved credit for sheer guts on a night fewer than 100 fans were on hand for the kickoff, in large part because of the school vacation and the NCAA men’s basketball championship. There still were fewer than about 200 fans during the second half on a nice night for soccer, if not scoring.
“It was a hard-fought game both ways,” Rodriguez said. “Both teams showed a lot of grit.”
Every season, NWC power programs Squalicum, Sehome and Bellingham face each other in both non-league and league games. In the six games this season among them, there were only nine goals, and four of those came in Squalicum’s 4-0 non-league win over Bellingham.
If they meet in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament — five teams qualify this season instead of four — don’t be surprised if overtime or penalty kicks are required. (Only the regulation 80 minutes is now played in regular-season games.)
That’s how sterling these defenses are.
“We played a quality brand of offense,” said Sylvester. “Our quality of passing and movement were very good. I thought we controlled play for about 60 percent of the time in the second half. We did better than we did in our last game against Squalicum (a 1-1 tie March 20).”
Considering the manpower shortage, Squalicum’s starting back line of BJ James, Ben Peterson, Erin Brandt and Tyler Nguyen did well indeed. Likewise, Sehome backline defenders Isaac DeVange, Gabe Weight, Manny Pacheco-Rodriguez and Kiefer Thomas were at least as stubborn.
This was the sixth shutout for the Storm, which has allowed only five goals. It was the improving Mariners’ fourth shutout in their past five games.
Squalicum and its vacation break-depleted squad next will face Lynden Christian on Wednesday, April 8, at 5:30 p.m. at Bender Fields. On the same day, Sehome will meet much-improved host Nooksack Valley at 4:30.
Squalicum 0, Sehome 0
Goalies (saves) — Squalicum: Owen Davis Bower (4); Sehome: Devin Trueb (2). Shots on goal — Squalicum 4, Sehome 2.