There’s no better way to introduce the 2014 high school girls’ soccer season than with a city battle between Sehome and Bellingham - a longstanding rivalry that should provide some excellent games this season.
Both programs will look to unseat Squalicum from the top of the Northwest Conference, Sehome finishing second last year and Bellingham, suprisingly, seventh, although the Red Raiders claimed the final 2A spot to squeak into the playoffs.
With that said, here’s a preview of the matchup starting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Civic Stadium.
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2013 record: 13-7-5 overall, NWC 6-3-3 (seventh)
Key players: Mia Hodges (Sr., M) and Hattie North (Sr., M).
Bellingham wins if ... it dominates possession in the middle of the field and runs its offense through Hodges and North. The all-confernece duo are quite possibly the best two midfielders in the Northwest Conference, providing speed in Hodges and toughness in North. Junior striker Brooke Baker will also play a pivotal role in sparking the Red Raiders’ attack, as that was a problem all season for Bellingham last year despite making it to the Class 2A championship game. Coach Mark Wright knows he’s going to need more offense this year than last, making Sehome an even greater test given the Mariners allowed the second fewest goals in the league last year with 22.
2013 record: 11-4-3 overall, NWC 10-1-1
Key players: Stephanie Midnich (Sr., F); Katie Midnich (Sr., D); Devin Grahn (Jr., M).
Sehome wins if ... the Mariners can find offensive threats from players not named Stephanie Midnich. Sehome is a team searching for an identity with several of its key players gone from last year or hurt. Coach Andria Fountain said it will take some time before she truly knows the identity of this team, which can either be a pleasant surprise waiting to happen or a precursor to a difficult season. Sehome more than any other team in the conference needs a good win early, helping build confidence in an inexperienced group. This game definitely means more to them long-term than it does Bellingham, which has been there and done that.
Prediction: Bellingham is just too experienced and has too much talent in the midfield for a young Sehome team. The Mariners will struggle to find any offense, too.