By Ray Hamill — Team chemistry is going to be key for a pair of local girls soccer teams this fall, as each eyes success well beyond the county line.
Both Eureka and St. Bernard’s appear to have squads capable of competing for their respective North Coast Section championships, with a nice complement of young talent and veteran leadership.
And just as importantly, each has been playing as a cohesive team unit early in the season.
“We have very good team chemistry,” Eureka head coach Andy Salatnay said. “All 21 players want to be a part of this team and to build each other up.”
St. Bernard’s head coach Dan Johnson has noticed a similar chemistry among his squad of 15.
“There’s no drama,” Johnson said. “Everyone seems to get along. They’re all showing up every day and working hard.”
Competing for a North Coast Section crown is nothing new for either team, and both will be expected to be right back in the mix for one again this year.
Loggers have plenty of leaders
Last season the Loggers lost the Division-I NCS championship in a shootout to league rivals Fortuna, whom they had previously gotten the better of in the race for the league crown.
This season, the defending league champions return a wealth of talent and experience from that team, which finished 19-2-1.
That leadership is evident throughout the lineup, as well as the versatility to change things up no matter what their opponents throw at them.
“Dare I say it, this could be the most talented team to come through Eureka in years,” Salatnay said.
Senior captains Olivia Stone and Athena Miller have been impressive through the early going.
Stone has six goals and four assists in the first three games, both team highs, while Miller has two of each.
“Everybody on the team is inputting quality leadership,” the head coach said. “They’re always giving each other feedback.”
Crusaders have nice blend of experience and young talent
The Crusaders, meanwhile, are 6-2-1 on the early season, including a 1-1-1 mark in league play.
This year, the team features a nice mixture of experience and skilled incoming freshman, which bodes well for the program for both the present and the future.
The presence of a key trio in particular will make the Crusaders difficult to break down, with Maddie Costa in goal, Jasa Sisemore in central defense, and Ally Del Grande in center mid.
The trio brings a wealth of experience and leadership, not to mention some other intangibles.
“They’ve got great soccer IQ,” Johnson said. “Jasa plays super hard. She’s very, very fast, probably the fastest player in the league.
“And Ally’s just super smart in possession. She’s very calm and cool in midfield.”
Among the younger players expected to have an immediate impact, sophomore Marayah Tomlinson is in her third year with the St. Bernard’s program and will be counted on to provide some firepower up front.
Two freshmen — defender Ema Brenes and forward Emma Wilson — are also expected to adjust to the varsity level quickly, having each played a lot of club soccer in the area.
“(Brenes) is very skilled, and arguably one of the best freshmen coming in this year, if not the best, in terms of the whole league,” the head coach said.
Eureka 3, St. Bernard’s 0
The two teams met in a league game at Eureka High on Wednesday evening, in what was a tightly-contested showdown.
The Loggers, however, took advantage of a St. Bernard’s own goal to break the deadlock with 15 minutes remaining, and then added two late breakaway goals to seal the victory.
“The own goal deflated our team,” Johnson said. “Mentally we couldn’t recover from it.”
Eureka’s Olivia Stone remained hot in front of goal with her sixth goal of the season, as well as adding an assist on an Adriana Newland strike.
Aquena Tolfeson also had an assist in the win.
“We had a very poor performance for the first half as far as being undisciplined with our running,” Salatnay said of his team, which was called an unbelievable 18 times for being offside.
The second half, according to the coach, was far better.
Shelby Jordan had a big game for the Crusaders, with an energetic display all over the field, according to her coach, while Maya Waterman was solid at fullback.
In goal, Costa continued to impress for the Crusaders, as she has been doing all season.
“It was a tough game. It was well played,” Johnson said. “Eureka’s good. They’re well coached.”
The Loggers improved to 3-0 on the season and 3-0 in league.
The Crusaders host South Fork on Friday at 3 p.m., while Eureka hosts Del Norte on Saturday.