BELLINGHAM - Where the ball would end up during a game where winds blew violently enough to knock a goal post off its mark was anyone's guess during a Class 2A Northwest District Girls' Soccer Tournament loser-out match between Squalicum and Burlington-Edison on Thursday, Nov. 5, at Civic Stadium.
But the Storm had to feel sure of its chances entering a shootout after the game ended 0-0 after regulation and overtime. It had participated in shootouts during the regular season twice - and won both times.
If Squalicum had second thoughts, it didn't show it. All five shooters - Andi Polichronakis, Jessica Wallace, Amy Wilson, Bianca Long and Maddie Horne - hit the net with authority, giving the Storm a 5-3 win over the Tigers in extra kicks.
The Storm's reward is a winner-to-state match-up against Lakewood, which on Tuesday lost to Sehome, set for Saturday, Nov. 7, in Cedarcrest at 11 a.m.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I think our girls knew what to do," Squalicum coach David Kish said. "Going into the shoot out they were pumped. They were ready for it. They were ready to win."
Up to that point, it was a bizarre night for both teams. The wind blew with such ferocity it pushed a goal post back several feet off the goal line just four minutes into the contest. And the ball refused to sit still on free kicks, meaning players had to take their chances on a quickly moving target.
The gusty wind wreaked havoc on both team's ability to build any rhythm in the first half, when Squalicum's best chances on to score came on two corner kicks. Horne just missed the goal on a volley off a cross in the game's 12th minute. The second corner kick opportunity saw Wallace set the ball for service, wind up, then try to catch up to the ball as it rolled away.
The result? A goal kick for Burlington-Edison after Wallace kicked the flag, eliciting chants of "Re-do! Re-do!" from the crowd.
"The wind, I think it affected both teams both halves," Kish said. "You really couldn't do much. The ball would go up and all of a sudden a gust would take it and it was out of bounds. Or all of a sudden there is no wind."
Going forward, the Storm actually moved the ball better playing against the wind in the second half, though it was unable to generate any shots on goal. Burlington-Edison took advantage, though, garnering four corner kicks and three shots on goal.
Squalicum also dodged a bullet 14 minutes into the second half when a Tigers player sent a chance from eight yards out over the net. And Storm goalkeeper Kara Merfeld, who had four saves on the night, tipped a long free kick up into the cross bar in the game's 72nd minute, allowing a Squalicum defender to clear the ball away for a corner kick.
Neither team was able to generate much offense in the overtime period as rain began to pour down.
Each Squalicum player struck the ball with confidence during extra kicks. Polichronakis went lower left; Wallace to the right as the keeper guessed the other direction; Wilson's quick hit to the upper right was followed by a Tigers' miss over the goal; Long hit low and left; and Burlington's keeper had a chance at Horne's shot, but it was driven hard enough the ball slipped through anyway.
Despite winning both shootouts coming into the game, Kish decided to go with a lineup of hot feet determined just the night before, including two players who had yet to take extra kicks for the Storm.
"We practiced them last night," Kish said. "Five girls stood out so they got the call."
With the win, even torrents of rain and gusts of wind couldn't beat the excitement off Kish's face as he entered the Civic Stadium locker room. His team will face Lakewood, a team Northwest Conference school's have played well against this year, for a chance to go to state.
"I think knowing that Bellingham took them to a shootout, Sehome beat them, Burlington tied them earlier in the season, I would say it's anybody's game and we're going to be excited," Kish said. "This is our first district win in I think four years. So my girls are going to be excited. Got a monkey of our back tonight."
SQUALICUM 1, BURLINGTON-EDISON 0 (SO)
Scoring: None. Shots on goal: Sqaulicum 3; BE 4. Goalies (saves): Squalicum: Kara Merfeld (4); BE: Niki Stilwill (3).