Payton Fowler said she wasn’t thinking of preserving four years of unbeaten Northwest Conference girls soccer seasons for Squalicum. She just didn’t want to lose to first-place Ferndale.
The Storm senior standout’s shot – set up with an assist from her sister, sophomore Riley Fowler – with less than four minutes to play produced a 1-1 tie with the Golden Eagles in a match-up of Class 3A state playoff hopefuls Monday at Civic Stadium.
Ferndale (8-1-1 overall, 6-0-1 NWC) retained the league lead, but the Storm (7-1-2, 5-0-2) prevented the Golden Eagles from making history. Squalicum has not lost a league game since a 1-0 defeat to Sehome on Sept. 20, 2012.
“I have never played in a league loss, but I wasn’t thinking about that late in the game,” Payton Fowler said. “I think our comeback shows the kind of character this team has.
“Kendra Steele threw the ball in, and Riley was the target,” Payton Fowler said. “Riley laid the ball off to me, and I think my shot (close to the goal in a crowd) deflected off a defender.”
Ferndale coach Rigel Weis lauded Steele’s play. “(She) was just everywhere for Squalicum,” the coach said.
KATE NEHER STRIKES FIRST
Twelve minutes before halftime, Ferndale’s Kate Neher was frustrated when her header was foiled on a fine save by Squalicum goalkeeper Aly Langer. But four minutes later, the senior striker scored her sixth goal of the season with a difficult 25-yard angle shot off an assist from junior Paige Devine.
“Paige was absolutely brilliant tonight,” Weis said of the hustling midfielder.
GOALIES, BACK LINES SHARP
Junior goalkeeper Rachel Neher, Kate’s sister, made eight saves but had little or no chance to stop Payton Fowler’s shot. Langer, the Storm’s senior keeper, had four saves, with two in the second half.
Squalicum had 18 shots, 10 in the second half. Ferndale had 10 shots, four in the second half as Storm back-line defenders Olivia Benner, Jayden Nguyen, Sophie Nguyen and Abbie Lease applied plenty of pressure.
Likewise, Ferndale defenders Alex McBeath, Elsa Ericksen, Janessa Mattingly and Carmelita Rodriguez turned in many sparkling plays in support of their keeper.
“Ferndale is definitely a competitive, physical team,” said Payton Fowler, who helped the Storm claim the past two Class 2A state titles before it moved up to 3A. “I definitely could see us playing each other again in the postseason.”
“We wanted to make sure we made a statement, to compete at Squalicum’s level,” said Weis, in his first season as head coach. “We wanted to apply pressure from the beginning.”