The race for the Big 5 just got a little more interesting.
On Saturday afternoon, Fortuna traveled to Arcata and came away with a well-deserved 3-3 tie.
With the result, the Tigers are now 7-0-2 in the Big 5 with three games remaining, while second-placed Eureka, which defeated Del Norte 4-0 on Saturday, is right on their heels at 7-1-2 with two games remaining.
The two league-leading rivals will meet again at Albee Stadium in Eureka on Wednesday night in a game that will have a big say in where the title ends up.
It will be the third meeting between them this season, with the Tigers winning one of the previous matchups — Eureka’s only loss of the season — and the other ending in a 1-1 tie.
On Saturday, the Huskies gave the Tigers everything they could handle, coming from a goal down at halftime to tie.
“The team has been working hard and it showed today,” Fortuna head coach Bekah Brooks said. “They all played a great game.”
Taylor Brooks netted twice for the visitors, with Chloe Cox also scoring off an assist by Kaydence Ferguson.
Kyla Berman, Zoe Macknicki and Alia Prentiss each scored for the undefeated Tigers, who still hold their league fate in their own hands as they look to secure their first title in five years.
Quin Rush-Copple also had an assist for the Tigers.
“We played well overall,” said Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan, who felt his team was denied three penalty kicks, two of which he said were blatant.
Regardless of the decisions, the Fortuna defense deserves a ton of credit for holding tough late in the game, especially Malia Bolden.
“She’s like our rock back there,” Bekah Brooks said of Bolden, who came up with a key goal mouth clearance in the dying minutes on a shot that appeared headed toward the back of the net. “She’s amazing.”
Allie Cox, Mollie Hernandez, Brylee Barsanti and Jocelyn Ortega-Miranda each also played a key role in the defensive performance, as did goalkeeper Kelsie Hall, who made a number of crucial stops and earned special praise from the Arcata coach.
“They’re starting to play to their potential,” Bekah Brooks said of her players. “They all just played so well today as a team.”
Goalkeeper Seri Welsh also continued to impress for the Tigers and finished with 13 saves,
Welsh and the Tigers defense had to remain disciplined as the game went one, with the Huskies looking dangerous on the counter.
Eureka 4, Del Norte 0
Lila Ekholdt netted a second-half hat trick as the Eureka girls pulled away from a resilient Del Norte team on Saturday afternoon.
Ella Tollefson gave the Loggers a first-half lead from the penalty spot, but Eureka had problems taking control of the game despite plenty of possession.
“We dominated with like 90 percent possession,” Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth said. “We just kind of struggled finishing and we’ve got to fix that a little bit.”
While the Eureka girls have played outstanding defensively for most of the season, including on Saturday, they have had their problems finishing and Learmouth is hoping they can correct that in time for Wednesday’s big showdown.
“You’ve got to peak at the right time, and it’s going to be another big week for us,” he said.
Tollesfon continued to lead the way in midfield, and assisted on one of Ekholdt’s goals, as did Payton Goodman.