By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders found a way to frustrate a high-scoring Loggers offense in foggy conditions on Wednesday, but ultimately they were unable to stop them.
Playing their second game in 24 hours, St. Bernard’s came into the Humboldt-Del Norte League tournament showdown with a defensive system, and it caused the No. 1 seed Eureka girls plenty of problems.
But a patient performance by the Loggers paid off with three late goals in a 4-0 victory at Albee Stadium.
“They definitely had a very defensive approach,” Eureka head coach Andy Salatnay said. “It threw us off our game.”
Playing a team that had outscored its opponents 93-2 in league play, the Crusaders sat deep and soaked up the pressure, while hoping to catch the Loggers on the counter.
“I think we out-coached them for the game,” St. Bernard’s assistant coach Phil Rouse said. “They didn’t know what to do.”
The Loggers took an early lead with their senior co-captains combining for the goal, when Olivia Stone netted off a corner kick by Athena Miller.
After that, however, the visitors shut down shop and held the potent Eureka attack at bay for the following hour of play.
Senior Jasa Sisemore anchored the disciplined defensive display, as the Crusaders allowed little room through the middle while making a series of tackles and interceptions to clear the ball time and again.
It forced the Loggers into a different mindset themselves, and that’s something Salatnay feels will benefit his players down the line in the North Coast Section playoffs.
“It definitely made us be more creative in our offensive approach,” the Eureka head coach said.
Three quick goals
When the Loggers finally ended the long scoreless spell with Stone’s second goal of the game, they quickly added two more in the following nine minutes for a more flattering final scoreline.
Stone’s second goal came off an assist by Aquena Tolfeson, who worked her way down the side and passed inside to the senior captain, who side-stepped a defender and scored with a well-placed shot.
Maddie Evansizer assisted on the third goal, setting up Tolfeson who scored from the edge of the box and got a little help on a deflection.
Senior Hannah Taylor closed out the scoring with six minutes remaining, with the help of an assist by Rebecca Russ.
In goal for St. Bernard’s, Maddie Costa had another standout game, facing down 25 shots on goal and turning away 21 of them.
“She definitely kept us out of the game a little bit,” Salatnay said.
With the win, the Loggers advance to Saturday’s H-DNL tourney championship, where they will host either Arcata or Fortuna, who play in Thursday’s second semifinal.
The Loggers are now 15-0 on the season.
St. Bernard’s, which defeated McKinleyville 3-2 in overtime just 24 hours earlier, dropped to 14-9-1.
The Crusaders will now turn their attention to the NCS Division-III playoffs, where they should be among the top three seeds.
The NCS playoffs get under way next week, although the Crusaders are likely to have a first-round bye.
Saturday’s H-DNL tourney championship is set for 11 a.m. at Albee Stadium.