By Ray Hamill — A well-taken Jasa Sisemore goal midway through the first half proved to be the difference in a close-fought girls soccer matchup at St. Bernard’s on Wednesday, as the Crusaders defeated McKinleyville 1-0 in both teams’ league opener.
Sisemore controlled the St. Bernard’s back line all game with a player-of-the-match performance, but it was a piece of offensive magic from her that ultimately separated the two teams.
The speedy senior standout got the breakthrough from a corner kick, winning possession in the penalty area, rounding a couple of defenders, and lofting a well-placed shot into the back of the net.
That was all the home team would need, despite plenty of pressure from the visitors in the second half.
“It wasn’t our best game,” St. Bernard’s head coach Dan Johnson said. “I felt like we played hard, and the girls gave it what they needed in the second half.”
The Panthers (3-2) had plenty of possession after the interval, catching the home team on the counter time and again.
But a combination of Sisemore’s defense and some poor shooting from the Mack girls kept the score as it was.
“I thought we played well,” McKinleyville head coach Alex Canepa said. “I thought we had chances, we had opportunities, we just couldn’t finish.”
The Panthers certainly had their chances and almost took the lead 16 minutes in when Grace Rosebrook slotted a beautiful pass through to Jaycee Morais, who shot just wide of the target.
Minutes later the Crusaders opened the scoring, and the goal seemed to wake up both teams.
Emma Wilson came close for St. Bernard’s at one end, before McKinleyville’s Cecelia Ferreira sent a perfectly placed long ball over the St. Bernard’s defense for Morais, who was denied on a courageous play from goalie Maddie Costa.
Moments later, Mack’s Cicely Jones shot just wide from a corner kick, while teammate Rayn Tripp saw her effort hit the woodwork.
Mack started the second half the better of the two teams, with Tripp looking the most likely to score, only to see a couple of efforts go just wide.
The goal post came to St. Bernard’s defense a second time off a Mackenzie Bray shot that was set up by a nice pass from the industrious Rosebrook.
St. Bernard’s had plenty of possession after the interval, but was unable to create many real opportunities, with the sure-footed Ferreira mopping up everything that came her way with a strong performance at the back for the Panthers.
The entire McKinleyville defense turned in a disciplined performance.
“Going forward, there’s some areas of improvement we need,” Canepa said. “As far as organizing midfield and being able to finish when we have chances.”
The St. Bernard’s girls, who improved to 6-1, will travel to play Fortuna on Saturday, while McKinleyville heads north to play Del Norte. Both games are scheduled for 11 a.m.
Both Ferndale and Arcata got the Humboldt-Del Norte League off to a flying start in girls soccer, while Eureka came away from Fortuna with a key win …