Arcata

History will be made when Eureka, Arcata meet on Saturday

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Photos by Ray Hamill/HumboldtSports.com

By Ray Hamill — Say what you want about the quality of opponents and a diluted pool of teams in the North Coast Section, what the Eureka Loggers have achieved in girls soccer over the past two seasons is remarkable nonetheless.

On Saturday the Loggers will attempt to close out a perfect campaign with an NCS Division-I championship, matching up with old nemesis Arcata at Albee Stadium in the decider.

One way or the other, history will be made, as neither of these teams has ever won an NCS crown before in girls or boys soccer.

It will also be the second straight year a Humboldt-Del Norte League team will win the girls Division-I championship, following in the footsteps in Fortuna last season.

Now, clearly the quality of the bracket has diminished dramatically since many of the Santa Rosa schools and much of the NCS switched to a winter season, something teams in the H-DNL could not do because of the weather and field conditions on the North Coast.

But regardless of that, what the Eureka girls have achieved this season is particularly noteworthy.

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This is a team that has now gone 35-1 in its last 36 games, and the only loss was technically a tie, coming in a shootout after overtime in last season’s NCS decider.

During that run, they have now outscored their opponents 185-12, while posting 28 shutouts.

Sure, many of those games are matchups against smaller schools like South Fork, games the Loggers are expected to win, and sizable mismatches, but this is also a group of players that have consistently dominated the likes of Arcata and Fortuna over the past two seasons, teams that are traditionally every bit as competitive as the Loggers.

Despite it’s larger student athlete population, Eureka does not continually dominate in every sport here on the North Coast, and has most certainly not always dominated on the soccer fields the way this current group has.

They are 12-0 against other playoff teams this season, and many of these Eureka players will go on to make their mark in the collegiate game.

They deserve credit for that. 

By any standards, they are a standout H-DNL team right now.

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Plenty of firepower

Standing in their way on Saturday are the Arcata Tigers, a group of players every bit as eager to make their own history.

On Wednesday, the Tigers knocked off the higher seeded Huskies in Fortuna, a team that had defeated them four times in four matchups this season.

Talk about timing, and never stopping believing in yourself.

The Tigers feature an outstanding midfield and are playing their most complete soccer of the season right now, while riding the momentum of two impressive playoff wins, in which they have outscored their two opponents 8-1.

And they can score, with more firepower that any of Eureka’s other H-DNL opponents, netting 83 goals this season.

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They possess at least three sharpshooters in Karina Zumbrun, Nina Crossen and Zakiya Elloway-Wonenberg, each of whom can score from outside the box and are a threat every time they have the ball, as well as Audrey Shelton, who has evolved into an industrious goal poacher, something every championship team needs.

They also possess a quality defense, with the central pairing of Gwyn Stratton and Zoe Leonard a perfect combination.

Stratton the composed, calm influence, who reads the game well, alongside the tenacious Leonard, who apparently never met a tackle she didn’t want to make.

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Zoe Leonard

In goal, Skaidra Pulley has become one of the top net minders in the league and has displayed a flair for the spectacular.

The Tigers have not been as dominating as the Loggers this season, and will go into the big showdown as heavy underdogs.

But soccer is a funny game, and sometimes a cruel one.

Because of its low scoring nature, the underdog prevails more often than in many other sports, and sometimes all they need is a disciplined defense and one or two lucky breaks.

The Tigers will create their share of chances, that’s for sure. The question is whether they can defend a very potent Loggers attack.

Favorites for a reason

Which brings us on to the favorites, who are so for a reason.

The Eureka defense has been phenomenal this year, allowing just two goals, while posting shut outs in 35 of the 36 halves of soccer they’ve played.

In goal, first-year senior starter Sadie Wilkinson has been ever-reliable, behind a defensive pairing of Keylei Carroll and Grace Plessinger, as good as any pairing on the North Coast.

But if the defense is good, the Loggers have been even more impressive up front, with a plethora of options.

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Seniors Olivia Stone and Athena Miller have been arguably the top two players in league play this year, with sophomores Aquena Tolfeson and Klayre Barres playing way more than just supporting roles.

You could make an argument for the tenacious Barres as the best player in league this year, certainly as the season has progressed.

Junior Maddie Evansizer, among others, has also lifted the level of her game as the season has progressed, and it all gives head coach Andy Salatnay the deepest roster in the area.

But it’s not just that that these players are all individually talented, it’s how effective they play together, with a dynamic understanding of each other’s play.

Saturday night should be fun.

History will unfold, one way or the other.

Game time is set for 7 p.m.

3 replies »

  1. something teams in the H-DNL could not do because of the weather and field conditions on the North Coast. ~ RH

    Response: No, no, no it is adult politics, pure and simple…soccer is seasonally a winter sport that has been morphing into other “seasons”… try doing a slide tackle in the winter on a nicely moisturised field surface that Turf is perfect for slide tackles… now try to do that when those fields are dry and not getting watered appropriately… then consider the field surface itself and how the game loses Talent because players aren’t developing their skills to maintain control on less than ideal wet field conditions… and consider the loss of the fan enjoyment because the game has got soft because field conditions are no longer an outlier variable in matches… and just plane not as fun watching a bunch of players playing the beautiful game on all things dry conditions that may be sprinkle wet at times and colder and at times freakishly warmer in the winter we know how that goes… this goes back to the 1980s and what school administrators did who were in power at that time… the sport was just fine until they changed it and then it caused all sorts of problems like where teams were playing… because teams used to be playing in Albee Stadium but then when you move it to fall guess what it conflicted with football… now you got to make adjustments and now the field has extra markings on it and it’s extra mashed up and well okay if you don’t want to play there or you can’t because of scheduling, you got to find another place to play which is a field that wasn’t maintained to begin with, but you’re just going to somehow cherry-pick it and put it out there for some world-class globally funded makeup job that’s going to paint the field and make it look pretty for one game or a few spread out, even though the surface sucks…

    … so this is all adult Politics, and the game needs to go back to Winter and stay there and then there will be some football players and volleyball players who want to play and the quality will go up…

  2. This is a team that has now gone 35-1 in its last 36 games, and the only loss was technically a tie, coming in a shootout after overtime in last season’s NCS decider.

    Response: was at that game… the shootout was kind of confusing because one of the goals that was apparently counted was a SO goal that shot back after hitting the crossbar… but the angle that which the ball hit off the crossbar initially was about 50 degrees (no way the ball could have hit behind the goal line and then roll back over it because of its spin)… the AR and the center have to be on the same page in a shootout, and the scorekeeper got to be on point up in the stands with the score board…!

    Still don’t think it was a goal but don’t know how it was counted in the actual books…

  3. The sinister adult politics in soccer for the NCS…leave fall season for the far north teams… and it ain’t got nothing to do with the weather… as The Rock would say a bunch of jabronies…

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