Senior defender Jordan Byford keeps the ball away from a Woodland forward. (Hailey Palmer/Lynden Tribune)

Mariners led by a hat trick from junior Julius Ellison on Saturday

BELLINGHAM — The unbeaten streak continues for Sehome boys soccer. The Mariners easily handled Woodland in a 2A quarterfinal matchup Saturday afternoon at Harrington Field by a score of 4-0, pushing their unbeaten streak to 16 games.

The Mariners move on to the semifinals of the state tournament next week at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner. They play the winner of Toppenish/Ellensburg at 6 p.m., Friday, May 24.

There weren’t many scoring opportunities for either team in the first half until the 35th minute when senior Morgan Antico connected on a free kick to put Sehome up 1-0.

Three minutes later, junior Julius Ellison found the back of the net for the Mariners, his first of three goals on the day. Sehome took a 2-0 lead into the half.

Senior goalkeeper Mason Kealy said both teams were trying to figure each other out early in the first half.

“I think we were just feeling out the game and understanding what they do as a team,” Kealy said. “Once we figured that out the goals just started rolling in.”

Sehome coach Richard Henderson said he told his team not to rush anything at the beginning of the match.

“It’s like a boxing match — it takes a little bit to figure out who’s going to throw the big first punch,” Henderson said. “I was just telling the guys to be patient and figure them out. What happens after five minutes of chasing the ball is gaps start to appear. We don’t have to win the game in the first 10 minutes.”

Sehome, in the state tournament for the second consecutive year, is outscoring opponents 56-9 in its current unbeaten streak including Saturday’s game.

Kealy said the team chemistry is what makes them hard to beat.

“A lot of us have been playing together since our freshman year,” he said. “All of us play on the same club team so that’s really helped. We’re a tight-knit team.”

Henderson said the team’s only loss of the season to Burlington-Edison made them a better team.

“The loss we had against Burlington at the start of the year was arguably the best thing that could have happened to us,” Henderson said. “We did set a goal and I’d be lying if I didn’t want to have an undefeated season, sure, who doesn’t, but I don’t think the team would have the tenacity that they do without that loss.”

Henderson said one of the things the Mariners have done well in these bigger games is staying within themselves and not changing the way they play.

“[It’s] not letting the occasion dictate our performance,” he said. “People have told me you can’t play this way in high school. I think we’ve shown that you can do that. You can play modern, progressive soccer at the high school level.”

With four teams remaining and a state title being within arm’s reach, Henderson said the Mariners need to continue to play how they have been and that there won’t be any surprises down the stretch with their opponent.

“The hardest part is not getting in your own head,” Henderson said. “Everybody knows everything about each team now. I think we have the tactical flexibility, more so than I’ve seen from other teams, and I’m hoping that’ll get us through if we do get in a battle.”

The key to Sehome winning a state title? For Kealy, it seemed pretty simple.

“Just do what we do as a team,” Kealy said. “Nothing special. Put the ball in the net and not get scored on.”