By Ray Hamill — Local soccer fans will have the opportunity to check out a number of H-DNL teams when the McKinleyville Panthers host a girls tournament this weekend.
The two-day event kicks off on Friday afternoon and will feature six teams, including McKinleyville, Fortuna, Ferndale and Del Norte, as well as Willits and Fort Bragg.
The action gets under way at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, with the tournament split into a pair of three-team brackets.
McKinleyville, Del Norte and Fort Bragg will play in one bracket with Fortuna, Ferndale and Willits in the other.
And the host Panthers will be hoping to build on their 2-1 start to the season as they hit the field for the first time in a few weeks.
It’s also a group of players that know each other well.
“They have experience playing together, which is nice,” head coach Adam Canepa said of his players. “And they have a belief they can win every game.”
The Panthers will rely heavily on their three senior captains — Soffia Reyes, Thea Trout and Taya Gomes — who will be expected to lead the way.
Reyes is one of the most dangerous playmakers on the North Coast and can create and score goals from midfield, while Trout is one of the most dangerous goalscorers in the area and the adaptable Gomes provides a formidable presence in defense and midfield.
The head coach also has a core group of juniors who look ready to play a significant role, including goalkeeper Caitlyn Canepa, who has developed into one of the most reliable shot blockers in the H-DNL.
Junior midfielder Lacie Rink also has continued to improve in midfield and has her become a key player for the team, while the versatile Liz Mengel looks set to play a variety of different roles.
“She can really play anywhere,” Adam Canepa said of Mengel. “She’s kind of the Swiss Army knife of our team. We can put her anywhere and she’ll figure it out.”
The Panthers kicked off the new season at the Upper Lake tournament almost three weeks ago, finishing 2-1.
The Mack girls lost 2-1 to Middletown in 103 degree temperatures in their opener, before bouncing back to comfortably beat Clear Lake and Lower Lake.