H-DNL girls soccer continues to grow after 25 years

438A4369 2

Photos by Ray Hamill/

By Ray Hamill — It’s been a memorable season for the H-DNL in girls soccer, and also a milestone one.

The league has now been in existence for a quarter century, and maybe even longer, according to South Fork head coach Ann Constantino, who has been in charge for 21 years in Miranda.

Either way, the league has provided a lot of opportunities for local girls over the years and continues to do so.

“One of the positive things I’ve seen is more and more Latina players,” Constantino said. “When I first started, Latina girls were spectators. Now they’ve become some of the most dominant players in league.”

It’s not the only growth the league has seen since its inception.

The development of local club teams in that time has led to a higher level of play in the H-DNL.

“The girls game has changed in terms of the style they want to play,” said Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth, who has been around the high school game for the past decade. “Instead of everybody going forward and attacking, they move the ball more, play more as a team.”

438A5400 2

College bound

The opportunities have also continued to grow for local soccer players, with more and more of them it seems going on to play at the collegiate level.

“I think the club teams have brought the level of play overall up,” Constantino said. “Coaches like Nick Parker, Kevin O’Neil, Patrick Stranahan have really dedicated themselves to getting the kids playing in the offseason.

“And I think we’re seeing more kids going to college now, and going in to play right away.”

Humboldt State women’s head coach Paul Karver also has done a lot of work in promoting many of the local girls playing the sport and helping send them on to the collegiate level.

This fall, five local players — Eureka’s Aquene Tollefson, Keylei Carroll, Brynn Hales and Klayre Barres, and Fortuna’s Sarah Killfoil — were invited for Olympic Development tryouts, showcasing just how far the standard of the game has come on the North Coast.

“That’s pretty exciting to see talent from our area going to do that and representing an area that isn’t always regarded as a powerhouse,” Fortuna head coach Kathleen Lynch said.


First-ever title

Lynch has been coaching since the league began play, and she’s seen first-hand many of the changes.

Some things, however, have remained pretty constant.

“Eureka and Arcata have definitely dominated it most of the time,” she said. 

Until this year, however, when Lynch led the Fortuna Huskies to their first-ever league title in the sport.

Lynch was also head coach when the Huskies won a first-ever NCS championship two years ago.

With the diluted NCS field of teams — many of the better schools in the section don’t play in the fall anymore — the H-DNL has been dominating the playoffs in recent years, receiving the top three seeds in the Division-I bracket for the third straight season this past week.


All three — Fortuna, Eureka and Arcata — will kick off their playoff campaigns this weekend, along with St. Bernard’s in Division III.

It hasn’t all been progress for the H-DNL, however, with no Little 4 in existence here, and smaller schools are still forced to play against the larger dominating schools twice each in league play, with little or no hope of winning those games.

“It’s a little unfortunate to not always have enough smaller schools to field a separate small schools league,” Lynch said. “But it also kind of benefits them going into the playoffs.”

Please follow and like us:

1 reply »

  1. Great read… Fortuna soccer has a very strong hispanic community, great folks who work hard and play hard too.

    Fortuna and Del Norte both have a strong presence of latina players, South Fork coach is spot on.

    Now, local league teams just need to get back to having opportunities to play those winter league teams again.

    Soccer aficionados worked hard to get the ncs/cif to include hdnl teams…way back then, local high schools (namely EHS, AHS) got “cheap”, and did not want to spend funds on traveling for the soccer teams’ post season…

    …so, the local high schools convinced the rest of the league members to switch to fall soccer in order to cut down on travel (funds)…

    …but, when it came to playoffs…nope, local HS administrations (EHS, AHS) did not want to spend the money (even though sending volleyball teams out of state for pre-season tourneys)

    …Finally, the pressure blew the top off, and hdnl began sending its top two teams to playoffs…which extended to the Golden Gate Bridge easterly before northerly for coastal regions…

    …then along came the female program, which luckily did not have to deal with the previous bull, cuz then there would really be the liberal equality accusations being tossed out there for perspective…

    …so, for years, playoffs roll around, visitors leave with a win 90% of the match ups…

    …visitors get sick of traveling to win, sometimes not even a close final tally…

    …over time, locals start winning more home playoff games….

    …then, visitors just complain about traveling…

    … then, by all rational, to avoid the controversy of segregation and other allegations, the schools to the south of hdnl predominantly switch back to winter season…

    So, almost all NCS high schools are right back to the early days of the sport, except for the one big league (hdnl) and some dinky schools…many of the same ship jumpers from back in the early days…

    The local student athletes of league (1st/2nd place) deserve to play the better teams in winter season now, people worked hard for that decades ago (a full fish bowl of competition not segregated), and not to see that opportunity get pdtd…

    Winning league and then winning league again two weeks later is not providing that SA their deserved opportunities to challenge and be challenged to be the best they can be, win or lose…

    … the conspiracy to uplift a winning attitude with the watering down of competition by segregation of schools using the tactic of “switching season of play” is a step in the backward direction, a huge leap really…

    …maybe there can be a way to eventually matchup the fall season champions with the winter league champions as an incentive to continue to build north coast soccer stronger, including fixing the youth levels where it all starts organizationally….

    These high school ballers deserve to be in the bigger picture, to know where that glass ceiling really is, to be seriously mentally engaged to play the game with grit and passion because the opponents are very good, etc… and for recruitment purposes to boot.

    It has taken the hdnl many years for the bottom dwellers to grow into a stronger program, and taking away the full spectrum of playoff competition the past few seasons is not going to help strengthen the sport more quickly.


Leave a Reply to Henchman Of Justice Cancel reply