Stanwood’s goalkeeper, the crossbar and the post combined to frustrate Squalicum’s girls soccer team.
As a result, the Storm face a must-win situation to stay alive in their first season in the Class 3A Northwest District Tournament after winning the 2A state title the previous two seasons.
Top-seeded Squalicum’s 2-0 loss to fourth-seeded Stanwood on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Civic Stadium could just as easily have been a 3-2 win, so well did coach Jose Rodriguez feel his Storm (13-2-2) performed against the Spartans (12-4-1).
“I still believe in my team,” Rodriguez said of the Storm, who suffered only their second loss in three seasons over a 64-game span. “We had a slow start in the first half and we weren’t playing our game. But we created many great opportunities in the second half.”
The Storm will play in an elimination game Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 5 p.m. at Civic Stadium against second-seeded Marysville-Getchell, which suffered a 2-0 upset loss to seventh-seeded Snohomish.
Down 2-0 in the first half, Squalicum came tantalizingly close to scoring against Stanwood goalie Kaitlin Larson, who logged three tough saves in the second half.
Natalie Shikany saw her power shot bounce off the left post when it seemed like a sure goal.
In the second half, Larson frustrated Storm scoring standout Payton Fowler with a fine save on a power shot in the 55th minute. Two minutes later, another power shot by the relentless Fowler hit the bar just when it seemed Squalicum would score.
In the 60th minute, Larson saved a long a shot by Kendra Steele. Seven minutes later, Larson denied Jessica DeVere’s on-target effort to score.
Stanwood scored in the 21st minute when Ava Schweiger tallied off a rebound following a free kick by Espy Sanchez. The Spartans scored 15 minutes later on a header by Anna DePew.
Otherwise, the Storm’s defense was inspired enough to hold the Spartans to only two more shots, both of which were saved by Storm keeper Aly Langer, who has posted nine shutouts and is one of five starting seniors.
Squalicum defenders Olivia Benner, Jayden Nguyen and Sophie Nguyen received Rodriguez’s praise for second-half determination, since Stanwood earned only one second-half shot.
“There is no doubt (Squalicum deserves one of the district’s four 3A state tournament spots) if we can continue to play like we did in the second half,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just so impressed by how the girls worked hard for opportunities and played so well for each other. They are so resilient. They just kept battling.”
Squalicum saw a 14-game unbeaten streak ended. In the second game this season, Sehome’s 2-1 nonleague win snapped a 49-game unbeaten string.