By Ray Hamill — Judging by the first half of Wednesday night’s league opener at Albee Stadium, the Eureka girls will be tough to de-throne as H-DNL champions this season.
The Loggers came storming out of the gate with a dominating first half, scoring twice in the opening 10 minutes and finding the back of the net five times before the interval.
They won the game 5-0.
The pace of forwards Aquene Tollefson and Klayre Barres caused problems for the visitors from the opening kickoff, and the Loggers’ precision passing and off the ball movement was nothing short of spectacular throughout the first 40 minutes.
The second half, however, was a different story, and featured an impressive turnaround by the visitors, who dug deep instead of folding and grounded out a far better performance.
“We played much better in the second half,” McKinleyville head coach Adam Canepa said. “We were way too passive and gave them way too much time on the ball in the first half, and Eureka’s way too good a team to do that.
“In the second half we played a lot higher and were a lot more aggressive.”
The game was decided well before that, as the Loggers came out of the starting gates in mid-season form before fading somewhat after the break.
“For the first game, I have no complaints,” Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth said. “There are always things we could do better, but it exceeded my expectations.”
Especially the opening few minutes, where Barres almost netted twice in the first 90 seconds and was a handful all night every time she touched the ball.
It was Tollefson who opened the scoring just two minutes in after Barres took the ball to the end line before cutting back into the box to set up her teammate at the edge of the penalty area.
Tollefson repaid the assist six minutes later on a beautifully placed free kick that found Barres open at the edge of the six-yard box where she calmly slotted home.
Barres would add three more goals before halftime, off assists from Tollefson and Kellina Pratton.
“They came together as a team,” Learmouth said of his players. “They played well together.
“To come out in the first 10 minutes and put two in the net was incredible to see. We just have to translate that into a full game.
“In the second half you could definitely tell it was our first game. The foot came off the gas. But McKinleyville definitely stepped up their defensive pressure.”
Rebecca Russ and Keylei Carroll controlled the back line for Eureka and set the tone for the early dominance.
“They communicated all night and shut down any McKinleyville attack,” Learmouth said of the duo.
Alongside them fullbacks Marissa Hall and Angelina Wescott each also stepped up, as did a pair of freshmen, Amelia Staiano in defense and Jordan Brown in midfield.
For McKinleyville, goalkeeper Taya Gomes was outstanding, denying the home team time after time in the opening half, which would have been far worse but for her heroics.
At one stage, Gomes made a triple save on back-to-back-to-back shots.
“My keeper played an amazing game,” Canepa said. “She must have had 20 saves.”
Dakota Andersonspirit also had a big game for the Panthers in the heart of defense, along with Rayn Tripp.
“They all played really hard, and they played much smarter in the second half,” Canepa said.