The McKinleyville girls soccer team expects to compete for a North Coast Section title this year, and on Wednesday they showed us exactly why.
The Panthers opened league play almost two months ago in an impressive 1-1 tie with Eureka and they closed out on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over league champs Arcata, handing the Tigers their first loss of the season.
“It was pretty awesome,” head coach Adam Canepa said. “It was a total team effort. Everybody played their part and everybody played well.”
Even more impressively, they won without leading scorer Thea Trout.
In her absence, Soffia Reyes scored both goals for the Panthers, who soaked up the Arcata pressure and took advantage of set pieces and counter attacks.
“I thought we played really well,” the head coach said. “We played well defensively. We worked at practice on counter attacks and we worked on set pieces, and it turned out that was the difference.”
Reyes too was a big difference maker, as the junior standout continues to play at an MVP level.
She scored the first goal off a Kathryn Tinney corner kick to give the Mack girls a 1-0 halftime lead, and then netted again midway through the second half on a counter attack.
Afterwards the head coach praised the play of several players, including Elizabeth Mengel and Cora Allen, as well as goalkeeper Caitlyn Canepa, who became the first goalkeeper to record a clean sheet against the high-flying Tigers this fall.
“She came up big when she had to,” the coach said.
The Tigers were left frustrated.
“We did not have our best game tonight, however McKinleyville parked the bus in the penalty box,” said Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan, who added that his team “missed the opportunities we created for ourselves.”
Kyla Berman had a good night for the Tigers, creating some opportunities, while Quin Rush-Copple played well in defense.
“It was just a frustrating evening for us as a team,” Stranahan said.
Both teams will find out their playoff opponents on Sunday and could have an opening-round bye next week.
“I don’t know what our seeding is going to be,” Adam Canepa said. “We’ll enjoy this night and be ready tomorrow to start preparing.”
The Tigers, who clinched the Big 5 title over the weekend, are expected to be the top seed for next week’s playoff tournament and the loss shouldn’t change that.
“Hats off to Arcata,” Adam Canepa said. “They never quit. They wanted it.”