BELLINGHAM — Sometimes the best defense is a strong offense.
It certainly was for the Sehome boys’ soccer team in the first round of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament Saturday night against Archbishop Murphy.
The Mariners peppered Wildcat goalie Jeff Renslo with scoring opportunity after scoring opportunity, keeping the ball out of their own end of the field through most of second half of their 3-1 victory at Whatcom Community College.
“We had really crisp passing in the second half,” said Sehome midfielder Tony Mihovilovich, who scored two of the Mariners’ three goals. “I don’t know why, but our passing wasn’t that good in the first half, and they managed to counter when we made mistakes. But we talked about it at halftime, and we handled the ball much better. And that really helped us put some pressure on their goal.”
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With the win, the Mariners (12-5) move on to face Cedarcrest at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Mount Vernon in the semifinals of the tournament. The winner receives an invitation to the Class 2A state tournament, while the loser faces the winner of the Bellingham-Lynden elimination game for another chance to secure a trip to state.
Archbishop Murphy actually took an early lead on its only shot of the first half, when Tyler Allen dribbled through the Sehome defense and found the back of the net in the 13th minute.
But the Wildcats got only one more shot off in the game and had only one other serious scoring threat.
“I thought we marked up real well in the game,” Sehome coach Jon Fleck said. “That and I really thought our seniors played a great game.”
But as Mihovilovich pointed out, it was easy to play good defense when the Mariners were controlling the ball.
Mihovilovich was the first to take advantage of the improving passing in the 24th minute, when he scored off an assist from Dylan Harrington.
“The first one was just a perfect one-two pass,” Mihovilovich said. “They put it right at my feet when I was wide open, and I just had to kick it in. It was the movement that made that first goal.”
Sehome took its first lead when younger brother Andy Mihovilovich booted home a rebound of Nino Tursic’s shot in the 61st minute.
Six minutes later, Tony Mihovilovich put the game away with a bending corner kick that went off the fist of Renslo and into the goal.
“I thought he played an excellent game,” Fleck said of Renslo. “I’m sure he would tell you that, because he was upset after giving up that one on the corner kick, but he made some great saves, especially there in the second half. There was that one that was a knuckler that he just managed to tip out of the way.”
Sehome’s game with Cedarcrest, which beat Anacortes 6-0 earlier in the day, will be a rematch of last year’s district tournament semifinal between the two teams, which Cedarcrest came back to win 2-1 in overtime.