By Ray Hamill — If the opening round of the Humboldt-Del Norte League Tournament in soccer is any indication, it’s going to be an exciting week.
Two of Tuesday’s three opening-round games featured last minute goals, and each went to overtime.
Mackenzie Finck scored the game winner for the St. Bernard’s girls at McKinleyville, netting off a goalmouth scramble in the final minute of the second overtime period, as the Crusaders snuck a 3-2 win.
It was another heartbreaker for McKinleyville on the boys side, with the Panthers giving up the tying goal at Eureka on the final kick of regulation, and then losing on penalty kicks after a scoreless overtime.
In the other tournament game on Tuesday, the Arcata girls defeated Del Norte 8-0 to advance to the semifinals.
The Arcata boys also advanced after a forfeit win over South Fork.
On Wednesday, the Fortuna boys will host Eureka, while the Eureka girls will host St. Bernard’s. Both games are at 6 p.m.
On Thursday, the Del Norte boys will host Arcata at 4:30 p.m., and the Fortuna girls will host Arcata at 6 p.m.
McKinleyville 2, Eureka 2
(Loggers win 3-0 on penalty kicks)
Senior Skylar Carroll and junior Cristian Bravo-Sierra were each instrumental in leading the Loggers to a dramatic win at Albee Stadium.
Carroll, who plays in goal, scored a penalty kick right at the end of regulation to tie the game at 2-2, after the visiting Panthers had rallied from a halftime deficit.
The senior captain then saved two of the McKinleyville penalties in the shootout to secure a tourney semifinal at No. 1 seed Fortuna on Wednesday evening.
In midfield, meanwhile, Bravo-Sierra came up big for the home team, dictating the tempo throughout and scoring one of the shootout penalty kicks.
“We started real strong We kind of dominated the early stages of the game,” Eureka head coach Alex Skweir said. “But in the second half that shifted. They really challenged us and battled strong.”
Sophomore Micah Duncan opened the scoring for the Loggers in the first half, slotting home from close range at the back post, while David Parra and Ian Bennett each also scored in the shootout.
The Panthers got goals from Narayan Weibel and Alex Freitas, both on long range efforts to take a 2-1 second-half lead.
Weibel scored on a free kick from 30 yards out, with Carroll getting a touch on the ball only to see it bounce in off the crossbar.
Freitas scored on a breakaway, also netting from around 30 yards out.
“In the second half, we played top soccer like we know we can play,” McKinleyville head coach Ryne Deppe said. “In the first half, there was no communication, there was a lack of oomph.”
The loss also eliminates any chances of a North Coast Section playoff berth for the Panthers and ends their season.
“I’m happy with the way we came together, and the improvement of our team,” Deppe said. “The soccer we were playing at the end was top notch.”
Skweir also paid tribute to the Panthers.
“I applaud McKinleyville’s effort,” the coach said. “They played extremely hard.”
The Loggers will now play on short rest at No. 1 seed Fortuna, which is unbeaten against H-DNL opposition this season.
“It’s going to be a challenge. They’re rested and we just played 100 minutes of an intense game,” Skweir said. “But we’ll be giving it our best effort and challenging them head on.”
St. Bernard’s 3, McKinleyville 2
Finck netted in the final minute of overtime of a dramatic game at Mack High, and capped a strong all-around performance with assists on her team’s two other goals.
The game was a thriller between two teams that had split a pair of matchups earlier in the season.
“In the four years I’ve been coaching, it was probably the best played soccer game by both teams,” St. Bernard’s head coach Dan Johnson said. “It was a fun game.”
It was also a back-and-forth game.
The visiting Crusaders took the lead on a Finck corner kick in the first half, with senior Jasa Sisemore scoring.
Sisemore continued to lead the way for the Crusaders and was instrumental in the win with another strong performance.
After the Panthers had tied things up, the Crusaders re-took the lead in the second half off another Finck corner kick, with freshman Ema Brenes netting for a 2-1 advantage.
Maddie Costa also had a big game for St. Bernard’s in goal.
After the game, Johnson paid tribute to the Mack program.
“McKinleyville has got so much better,” the head coach said. “Their coach (Adam Canepa) has done a great job with their program.”
The Crusaders will now play at league champion Eureka on Wednesday.
They will open the NCS playoffs next week and should be among the top three seeds in the Division-III bracket.