Eureka girls hoping to pick up just where they left off in ’21

Photos by Ray Hamill/ – Maia Hales is back to anchor the Loggers defense this year.

By Ray Hamill — The defending North Coast Section champions are eager to pick up just where they left off last season.

And they should have the talent to do exactly that.

The Eureka girls kicked off the new soccer season with a 1-1 against Fortuna last weekend, and in head coach Tommy Learmouth’s own words, “you could tell it was the first game,”

But with a core group of returning standouts and a squad that will likely be as deep as any in the H-DNL, look for the Loggers to reach mid-season form sooner rather than later.

“For the most part, our core group is still together,” said Learmouth, who added “It’s a good problem to have when you have a bunch of dangerous players. It’s just about finding our formation and what works best for us.”

Back to lead the way is 2021 league MVP Lila Ekholdt, who is likely to have a huge influence once again offensively.

Arguably the most talented high school player on the  North Coast right now, the junior standout will present matchup problems for opposing teams every time she takes the field.

Also back is fellow junior Maia Hales, arguably the best defender in the H-DNL right now and a consistent leader at the back.

The ever-improving Paige Rodgers also is back in defense and was one of the team’s most improved freshman a year ago, while talented all-around athlete Claire Maples returns in goal for her senior season and will give her team a reliable and experienced last line of defense.

Another multi-sport standout, Kaitlin Giacone, is also back and the versatile junior will give Learmouth a number of different options.

Lila Ekholdt

“She’ll play all over the place for us,” the coach said. “It kind of depends on the game.”

Another key returner is junior Ella Tollefson, who will anchor the midfield and has developed into one of the best playmakers in the area.

Tollefson scored her team’s lone goal against Fortuna.

“She’s one of our leaders in midfield,” Learmouth said.

Industrious sophomore Angelina Conant will play alongside her in midfield after a breakout freshman campaign that saw her influence grow considerably over the course of the season.

“We continue to look for big things out of her,” the head coach said. “She played well last year.”

The Loggers feature a number of capable strikers to score their goals, including seniors Kira Morris and Saedra Joseph and junior Grace Nelson.

And overall, it’s a group that continues to grow together.

“They take criticism well,” Learmouth said. “They want to learn, they want to get better, and they want to do it the right way.”

The players came into the preseason eager to pick up where they left off last year, when they responded to being edged by Arcata for the league title by defeating the Tigers on penalties in the NCS decider.

“The thing that’s most impressed me is they came ready to go,” said Learmouth, who admits the players exceeded his expectations coming into preseason practice.

The players, however, will have to be patient and their next game is still two weeks away.

Learmouth expects his players to be chomping at the bit when the season begins in earnest, and he expects them to feature a nice balance of offense and defense.

“I think we’re going to be pretty balanced,” he said. “We’re going to have a disciplined defense and a dynamic offense.”

Categories: Eureka, Soccer

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