By Ray Hamill — The Loggers inched closer to a perfect regular season with a 4-0 win over visiting Arcata at Albee Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The Eureka girls have dominated North Coast opposition all season, rolling to a 13-0 record and a second straight league crown.
But they had to work a little harder for this one, against an Arcata team that has been steadily improving.
“Big kudos to Arcata,” Eureka head coach Andy Salatnay said afterwards. “They were definitely improved from the first time we played them. They definitely brought the intensity in the second half, and they made us work hard.”
Arcata has the midfielders to match up with the league champs, with Nina Crossen and Karina Zumbrun arguably the two best central players Eureka will play all season.
In the end, however, the Loggers had too much for the visitors, and after opening up a quick 2-0 lead less than five minutes in, they were never in danger of losing this one.
Olivia Stone scored three of the Loggers’ goals, including one from a penalty kick and another set up after a nice move from Klayre Barres.
Aquena Tolfeson added the final goal late in the game on a wonderful strike from well outside the penalty area.
The Loggers’ defense continued to hold their opponents in check with another composed performance in front of goalkeeper Sadie Wilkinson.
The central defender partnership of Grace Plessinger and Keylei Carroll has been outstanding all season, posting a 12th shutout in 13 games alongside outside backs Rebecca Russ and Madie Evansizer.
At the opposite end of the field, Arcata goalie Skaidra Pulley made several spectacular saves to keep her team in contention.
“She’s been consistent for us, but today she stepped up a couple of levels and played amazing,” Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan said of Pulley, who had 16 saves. “The whole team was lifted by her performance.”
In front of her, the Arcata back line was a busy unit but kept a dangerous Eureka attack in check for large periods of time, giving up just two goals over the final 75 minutes.
Outside back Bella Garrett, in particular, made some key tackles, while Zoe Leonard, Gwyn Stratton and Sarah Jensen all impressed.
“The girls put togethers a stellar second half in my opinion,” Stranahan said. “It was a group effort out there.”
The Loggers have one more regular season game at McKinleyville on Saturday before turning their attention toward next week’s Humboldt-Del Norte League Tournament and the North Coast Section playoffs after that.
And a dominant squad appears to be growing stronger.
“I would say we are,” Salatnay said. “We are more consistent with our passing.”
After the game Stranahan paid credit to the Loggers.
“Eureka played well,” he said. “They’re in first place for a reason.”
Arcata will close out the regular season at home to South Fork on Saturday, and could see a rematch against the Loggers in next week’s league tournament.