BELLINGHAM Perfect timing.
After two draws in the regular season between Squalicum and Sehome’s boys’ soccer teams, the Mariners used two set pieces to end the Storm’s 40-game unbeaten streak and get a 2-0 win in the opening round of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Saturday, May 9, at Whatcom Community College.
“It’s probably the biggest game we’ve played so far and we’re on a good path to go to state now and it’s awesome,” Sehome senior Zach Wanne said. “I have a lot of friends on (Squalicum) and they always talk about being undefeated so it was a huge win.”
And Wanne was the difference-maker throughout the game. The tall player, who was only in his fourth game back from an injury that kept him out a half dozen games, was a constant threat on set pieces and Squalicum didn’t have an answer.
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In the 13th minute, Kiefer Thomas delivered a perfect ball off a free kick, finding Wanne’s head and then the net.
But Wanne was more than just a goalscorer for the Mariners Saturday night.
“Having Zach just balances out the team and it gives us one of our lone seniors that we can look up to and ride on the expectations he’s got,” Sehome coach John Sylvester said. “He likes to win. He’s been working for four years toward this and I think the guys rode behind him.”
It was apparent from the first goal, it wasn’t going to be an easy day for the Storm.
“I think the biggest thing was height,” Squalicum coach Joe McAuliffe said. “Sehome is a tall team, they had set plays and both their goals were just taller than we were and they were beautiful finishes. That’s their strength and more power to them; that’s the way to beat us.”
Squalicum controlled the run of play for the most part, but struggled to find forwards’ feet in the attacking third, as the Mariners thwarted everything they could.
“I was amazed by the play of our defense, honestly,” Sehome coach John Sylvester said. “The commitment to stay in front of their key players and not let them get free shots. They got around us a couple times, but nothing they could wind up at.”
All of that effort on the defensive end was rewarded with constant set pieces on the Mariners’ attacking end.
Sehome capitalized on those free kicks again in the 53rd minute when a Mason Rathkamp corner kick was headed in by Gabe Weight.
“We’ve been working on those kinds of things,” Sylvester said, “just being more dominant and going harder to 50-50 balls.”
It’s an offense that’s been developing for the past six games. After struggling to score goals at times throughout the year, the Mariners have won their last seven games, scoring 22 goals during that span.
The recent success had Sehome knowing it could top the Storm in the playoffs.
“We knew we were playing the best soccer we have and we were on an upward swing for the last couple weeks,” Sylvester said. “We were just raising the level and raising the level, and I looked at my guys and thought, ‘You know what? We can beat anyone.’”
Now, the Mariners move on to face the winner of Cedarcrest and Sedro-Woolley, one win away from the state tournament, somewhere Wanne hasn’t been in his four years.
“I think this is one of those natural boosts that will give us confidence and keep the momentum going on its own but we have no doubt that the next game we play will be a very good team too,” Sylvester said. “In order to win, we’ll have to play at just as high a level. We basically need to do exactly what we did today if we expect to go through. Anything less will not work.”
For Squalicum, the loss actually relieves pressure, McAuliffe said.
“They’re a really mature group. We needed that,” McAuliffe said. “Let’s put this long streak behind us and focus on each game and not have that baggage.”
The Storm will have to win two games to get to the state tournament but McAuliffe has no doubts his team will bounce back.
“They’re a smart bunch and they’ll respond well to this,” McAuliffe said. “It’s the perfect group for this.”
Both Squalicum and Sehome will play next on Tuesday, May 12.
Reach Joshua Hart at 360-715-2238 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sehome 2, Squalicum 0
Goal: Zach Wanne (Sehome), assist: Kiefer Thomas, time: 13; Goal: Gabe Weight (Sehome), assist: Mason Rathkamp, time: 53. Goalies (saves) Sehome: Devan Trueb (6), Squalicum: Owen Davis-Bower (2). Shots on goal: Sehome 4, Squalicum 6.