By Ray Hamill — Finding the back of the net hasn’t been a problem early on for the McKinleyville girls soccer team, and that’s something the Panthers hope will continue on Wednesday night, when they kick off the new H-DNL campaign.
The Panthers are 3-0 with an incredible 27 goals in those three games, having beaten Willits (8-0), South Fork (11-0) and Ferndale (8-1).
Eight different players have found the net so far, led by juniors Thea Trout and Sofia Reyes.
Trout has netted a hat trick in each game, including four goals in the opener, and already has 10 goals total, while Reyes has eight.
“They’re learning to work together really well,” head coach Adam Canepa said of his players. “Given the chance we can score.”
Canepa’s lineup is very strong up the middle, with a core group of players as good as any in the league.
The team’s only two seniors are defender Bria Ferreira and defensive midfielder Kathryn Tinney, who together will anchor the defense, while the speedy and talented Reyes will operate as an offensive midfielder and the dangerous Trout in attack.
Some of the team’s younger players also have impressed early, including sophomore Elizabeth Mengel, who will play center midfield and has already scored three goals, including two against South Fork on her birthday.
Junior Taya Gomes also netted her first-ever goal for the team against Willits, having switched from goalkeeper to the field, where she has been playing great, according to her coach.
Tinney, Leah Circe, Cora Allen and Mary Ann Som have each also found the net in the preseason, while sophomore Caitlyn Canepa has impressed between the posts, with the Panthers allowing just one goal in the three games.
The head coach and his players, however, know Wednesday’s league opener against Eureka will be a much more difficult prospect.
“So far so good,” Adam Canepa said. “But we’ve got a real challenge coming up against Eureka, so we’re trying to get mentally prepared for that.”
The Panthers, who have averaged a goal every nine minutes, will carry plenty of confidence into Wednesday’s opener, especially after battling back from an early one-goal deficit against Ferndale and breaking the game open with seven second-half goals.
“My team believes they can beat anybody,” the coach said. “We know we just have to play our best.”
The experience a lot of the younger players got in the spring will benefit them going forward.
“A lot of our freshmen girls got a lot of playing time in the spring, and as sophomores now they’re stepping up and playing well,” Adam Canepa said. “They’re all improving quite a bit and the team seems to be in good spirits. We’re having fun at practice.”
Wednesday’s game is set for 7 p.m.