Sehome coach John Sylvester knew three years ago this 2016 group would be special.
He saw a unique cohesion from the freshmen, coupled with a wealth of talent coming up the ranks. Many of the Mariners’ now massive senior group played varsity early. Combine that early playing time with offseason development through the Whatcom Rangers club program, and Sylvester’s vision of what Sehome could be this season has come to fruition.
What ignited the spark and became the precursor to Sehome’s Northwest Conference title, 18-1-3 record and run to the Class 2A State Tournament semifinals was a telling gesture dating back to the 2015 season.
The Mariners had just lost to Anacortes in a winner-to-state, loser-out district tournament game. But the bond the team had developed held true and was on display the next day when the team decided to wear their jerseys to school.
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“I was never prouder of the kids when they did that,” Sylvester said. “They said we are ready 365 days out of the year and ready to go. They stayed proud, and I think that was the very first step right then toward the year we’ve had here.”
The Mariners have fallen one agonizing loss short of a state berth each of the past two seasons, but with a group of 13 seniors listed on their postseason roster, Sehome continue its already special season with a state title run.
If they were a company, they would be organized, well run and have happy employees, and we’ve had a ton of fun this year.
Sehome coach John Sylvester on his team
The Mariners face Archbishop Murphy — the team responsible for Sehome’s only blemish, which came two weeks ago in a 3-0 loss during the district title game — in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday, May 27, at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.
“We’ve been wanting to go (to state) for a long time,” senior Gabe Weight said. “We’ve been so close the last few years, and I think that left a sour taste in our mouths. We didn’t want to waste any of the potential that we had. We just kind of thought we’d go all in this year, and good stuff has happened.”
The Mariners, especially defensively, have been dominant most of the season. They’ve posted 12 shutouts, but what makes this team special is the brotherhood they’ve forged and the unity they play with.
Nowhere is that more evident than Sehome’s goalkeeper situation, which includes two talented seniors in which Devin Trueb and Max Diehl. They’ve split time but support each other unconditionally and it’s permeated throughout the rest of the team, Sylvester said.
“This is the first team I’ve played on that I just feel loved by the rest of my teammates,” junior Mason Rathkamp said, “and we all respect each other and work hard for each other.”
Sehome will need to be at its best against Archbishop Murphy, a matchup that could be regarded the de facto state championship game.
While the Mariners moved on to beat Kingston 2-1 in penalty kicks in the state round of 16 and then 6-2 against Ridgefield in the quarterfinals, Sehome is thrilled at the opportunity to earn redemption against a talented Archbishop Murphy club.
“We weren’t on top of our game,” Weight said. “Now we want revenge. We kind of got embarrassed by them, honestly, and nobody wants that again.”
There’s several reasons Sylvester gives his side a strong chance of winning. Most importantly, a couple of key players are back at 100 percent, and while Sehome owns a fast, attacking style, he said it also has learned to play with composed urgency and will do so against ATM.
“No matter where we finish, if we play our hardest and we play our best for each other, no matter where we finish we are going to be proud of each other,” Sylvester said.
Class 2A State Tournament semifinals
Sehome vs. Archbishop Murphy
When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 26
Where: Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner