Teams kick off season with high hopes
by Jack Kintner
The Blaine high school sports program gets underway this Saturday at 11 a.m. as the girl�s soccer team hosts the season-opening jamboree at Pipeline fields.
Head coach Dan Steelquist expects to field a strong team that lost just one player to graduation from last year�s 14-7 state quarterfinalists.
�We�re going to put on a good show,� Steelquist said, adding that the experience level both among his starters and bench is good enough �to allow us to play two to three passes ahead, to read the game and play less predictably.�
The team�s loaded with seniors. Standout all-league first team keeper Shela Robertson joins all-state midfielder Christina Francis and team captain Kimberly Harmening to provide a solid core along with midfielder Krista Jones. Midfielder Jennah Makalai was injured last season when the team was 4-0, but is back, healthy and ready.
The list of seniors is rounded out by two players, Holly Steckler and Rochelle Ramirez, who as utility players can fill in anywhere. Steckler can also spell Robertson in goal should the need arise.
�We�ve probably got seven�no, eight players who can really boot the ball,� said Steelquist to the sound of cleats thudding balls into white streaks. He predicted great home contests against last year's fourth-place team Meridian on October 7 and against last year's state champs from Sultan on October 14.
�If we can play as a team,� said Robertson, �we�ll be fine. Our goal is to go back to state and pick up where we left off.�
Blaine high school football coach Dave Fakkema wants you to know that this is not a re-building year. �We�re going to win some games this season,� said the second-year coach, �and there will be some surprises.�
Last year�s team worked hard but went winless against teams that fielded sometimes twice as many varsity players. Fakkema has since been recruiting players with the help of his assistants, defensive coordinator and receiver coach Rob Adams and backfield coach Travis Thayer who, like freshman coach Scott Dodd, once played for Blaine.
�We�ve ended up with a great crop of freshmen, but in many ways it didn�t turn out the way we anticipated it might,� said Fakkema, adding that he and his coaches decided to pass on the opening non-league contest with Nooksack given that Blaine would have to start a number of freshmen against an experienced opponent in a game that�s little more than an exhibition.
�Last year�s team had fun, but this year�s team has developed a major work ethic, so we expect to win some games.�That�s why they�re working so hard,� said Fakkema, once a lineman for Washington State University.
The Borderites begin their season a week from tomorrow at South Whidbey, then return home for two weeks against Granite Falls and a non-league contest against Nathan Hale high school in north Seattle.
�There�s a lot of new faces, but look for the Brian�s,� Fakkema said. �Galbraith passing left-handed and McCall pumping through the line as fullback.�
Head coach Muriel Ridnour expects her varsity volleyball team to improve considerably over last year�s 3-11 squad, first because she�s lost no one to graduation. �And the four seniors we have this year gives us a kind of leadership that�s great to have,� she said.
The team is led up front by 6-foot senior Jessica Summers and five-foot-eight-inch senior Jessica Freeman, supported by juniors Alisa Burk, Jessica Carrington and Jen Kramer, like Summers also a standout on the basketball court. �Jen [Kramer] gives us a lot of strength,� Ridnour said, adding that people also should watch for five-foot-nine-inch junior Amanda Stull�s left-handed cross-court passes and shots.
This summer, Ridnour created her own volleyball camp in Idaho to mold the girls into a team, and it�s working. �This squad has depth, which gives us options offensively and defensively that we haven�t had before,� she said. The season begins with a jamboree next Tuesday at Meridian high school beginning at 6:00 p.m.
Carey Bacon�s varsity cross-country team is all boys this year. �Grace Coulter was our stand-out until transferring to Sehome high school last season, her senior year,� Bacon said, �where she led that school to the AAA state championship.�
Bacon said that Dusty Soderbom, a sophomore, is good enough right now to go on to the state cross-country meet in late November. �There�s also Stephen Fraser and Josh Ecklund, both freshmen and both experienced runners, who will develop a lot by the time they�re seniors. This is a sport where that can take a while,� Bacon said.
Bacon, who ran as a high school athlete in Jacksonville, Florida, said the two best chances to see this year�s seven-man team in action is at Blaine�s one home meet, September 26 on a five kilometer course set around the perimeter of Peace Arch Park beginning at 4 p.m., and at the Mount Baker Invitational the following week.
�Mount Baker always has a nice meet,� Bacon said. �And they use Silver Lake State Park for their course.� The meet begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 4.
As for tennis, that program was cut this year; however, the school board recently approved action that would allow students to play with Lynden, under the Blaine banner. School officials say only one student has shown interest this far.