By Ray Hamill — With the H-DNL all-league soccer selections expected to be released next week, here at Humboldt Sports we’re going to take a quick look back at what was a highly-entertaining season and hand out some of our own awards.
Four teams in particular stood out, along with several talented individuals, all of whom left their mark on the season.
(There are too many standout players to mention here, but then again that’s what the all-league selections are for.)
It was, of course, a memorable season for many reasons.
The Fortuna boys kept on winning, the Arcata girls ended a five-year wait, and the Eureka and St. Bernard’s girls saved the best for last.
And for the first time ever, the H-DNL had two North Coast Section girls championship teams, which is a remarkable accomplishment even considering the diluted nature of the section these days.
Here then is a quick look back at the season that was …
Seven Talking Points
1 — Huskies dominate again
There was no stopping the Fortuna boys here on the North Coast, as they cruised to an eighth straight league title and stretched their incredible unbeaten run to 63 consecutive games.
That streak finally came to an end in the NCS decider, when they fell to Making Waves, but it doesn’t take from what was another spectacular season for head coach Daniel Holmes and the Huskies.
2 — Back-to-back NCS champs
The St. Bernard’s girls made H-DNL soccer history this season by becoming the first-ever local girls program to win back-to-back section championships.
And they had to do it on the road, defeating Upper Lake 5-2 in the championship game.
In addition, the section title was the fourth-ever for the Crusaders, making them the most successful H-DNL soccer program, boys or girls, in the NCS.
3 — League champs!
The Tigers may have lost the NCS championship game in heartbreaking fashion, but it doesn’t take from what was a tremendously successful season.
The Arcata girls won their first league title since 2016 and did not lose a game until after the championship was decided.
For good measure they were also 2-0-1 against rivals Eureka in league play and that’s a pretty good achievement all on its own.
4 — Great goalkeepers
The H-DNL girls in particular featured some incredible play between the posts all season, with several seniors stepping up.
Arcata’s Seri Welsh led the way, but she wasn’t alone, with Ferndale’s Bella Stephens and South Fork’s Lyndsee Brewer each also consistently brilliant for their teams.
Eureka junior Claire Maples and McKinleyville sophomore Caitlyn Canepa each also played consistently well for their teams and should continue to be a force next year.
5 — Loggers save the best for last
The Eureka girls closed out the season in spectacular fashion by edging Arcata for the NCS crown on a penalty shootout.
It was a well-deserved win for the Loggers, who had failed to get the better of their biggest rivals in three earlier matchups and had been beaten to the Big 5 title.
But a young Eureka team never gave up hope and learned from its earlier losses while playing outstanding defense all season and keeping a potent Tigers attack in check in the championship game.
6 — How about those Wildcats?
A special mention to the Ferndale girls, who didn’t even know if they would have enough players to field a team this year and then came within inches of a section championship appearance.
Few teams improved as much as the Wildcats from the start of the season to the end and I’m still not sure how a potential game winner in the NCS semifinal was ruled offside.
7 — How about those Panthers?
It was also a memorable campaign for the McKinleyville girls, who posted impressive results against both Eureka and Arcata and matched up very competitively against the larger school programs.
In particular, a 2-0 win over Arcata on the final day of the regular season was a great result for the team and the first win over the Tigers in recent memory.
Boys Team of the Year
Who else could you possibly consider here?
Girls Team of the Year
The Tigers were the most consistent team on the North Coast this season and were deserved league champions.
Boys Coach of the Year
It’s easy to suggest the Huskies have a much deeper pool of talent than everyone else every year, but Holmes continues to do a remarkable job keeping his players humble and focused, and especially so when they get everybody’s best shot in every game year after year.
Girls Coach of the Year
Stranahan’s team was consistent and composed all season long and played some of its best soccer at the business end of the season.
The Arcata head coach arguably did his best job yet in charge of the team this year.
(An honorable mention to Eureka’s Tommy Learmouth, who continues to grow as a coach and also had his young team playing its best soccer of the year in the playoffs.)
PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
Antonio Garcinuno, Fortuna
The super-talented and quick-footed Huskies senior has been the most fun player to watch here on the North Coast the past few seasons and he will be missed.
Girls Big 5
Seri Welsh, Arcata
The senior goalie was arguably the champions’ most important player all year and did a fantastic job leading the way from the back.
Her growth as a goalkeeper in recent years has been remarkable and Welsh reads the game as well as anyone and also is gutsy, vocal and very talented.
Girls Little 3
Emma Wilson, St. Bernard’s
Wilson scored in every single game this season and was pivotal in the Crusaders’ charge toward a league and section double.
She walks away as a two-time NCS champion.