BELLINGHAM, WA— Bellingham United have been to every WISL Final. That’s three in a row, and they have won the last two. They loom like Mt. Baker over their foes when they take the pitch at the Bellingham Sportsplex. Here they come again in 2017-18, with many of the same players who have helped them win the WISL in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
“There is a good mix of older experienced players and newer younger guys,” says Head Coach and player Brendan Quilici about the latest edition of the Hammers. “We have our core of about 7-8 guys that played last year, with the remaining players being new to the team. We have a good return of our attacking players. Richard Henderson, Chris Jepson and Kurtis Pederson are all returning and were instrumental in our success scoring goals last year. We will rely on Conner Moe and Kenny Parker’s experience in the back to help us defend and keep the ball out of the goal. All of our older experienced players will be key in helping get the newer guys up to speed and integrated into our system of play.”
The Hammers have secured home pitch advantage for the playoffs two years in a row. The one year they didn’t — they lost the Final to an undefeated Tacoma Stars team in Tacoma. “We want to get off to a quick start,” Quilici says. “We have a tough start to our schedule with a bye, then an away game, then the thanksgiving break. So it will be important for us to get off to a quick start and build some confidence early. We want to get our new guys some experience and get them acclimated to the speed of play and toughness of the league.”
HOME MATCHES: Bellingham Sportsplex
Hammers foes will surely notice some new faces on the BUFC defense. It’s an area that Quilici is addressing before the matches start coming.
“One of the biggest challenges for us will be on the defensive side. We lost a couple of key defenders from last year, so it will be tough to replace their experience and leadership. One of our main focuses on the year will be to stay strong defensively and not give up easy goals.”
Bellingham United finished second in the preseason tournament in Tacoma at the end of October, losing a shortened match final to the Tacoma Stars Reserves 3-1. They likely don’t care. No WISL Champion has ever won the tournament in the same season they lifted the trophy.
In a preseason match played at the Sportsplex on November 4 the Hammers were back to their old tricks, pounding the Snohomish Skyhawks 10-2.
BUFC opens play on November 18 in Bremerton against the two-time runners-up Olympic Force. Then after the Thanksgiving break the Hammers open their home season on December 2 when they host the Tacoma Stars Reserves.