Two of the favorites for this year’s Big 4 championship kicked off the H-DNL girls soccer season with emphatic victories on Wednesday evening.
Matching up against Little 4 opposition, both Arcata and Eureka looked ready for the new season as they each turned in strong team performances at both ends of the field.
The Arcata girls, who were playing their first game of the fall, won 7-0 at St. Bernard’s, while the Loggers, who playing just their second game, won 11-0 at South Fork.
“It was a really strong performance by the entire team,” said Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan, whose team is the defending Big 5 champion. “New players and returning players, everybody had a strong showing. It bodes well for the upcoming season.”
Kyla Berman scored four goals in the win, while teammate Alia Prentiss had a hat trick, as the Tigers quickly took control of the game and led 5-0 at halftime.
For good measure, Berman and Prentiss each also had an assist, as did seniors Zoe Macknicki and Maddy Conley and freshman Aleta Stubblefield.
The Loggers were equally impressive and happy to be playing after not seeing any game time since a 1-1 tie with Fortuna a few weeks ago.
“They were very eager to get things started,” head coach Tommy Learmouth said.
Saedra Joseph scored a hat trick in the win, while teammate Ella Tollefson netted twice and five other Eureka players also scored, showcasing the team’s balance and depth.
“We had seven different players score, so we were able to rotate everyone through,” the head coach added. “It was a nice way for us to start the season. Everyone’s been working hard for the last five weeks.”
Kaitlin Giacone, Lila Ekholdt, Maia Hales, Lorena Hernandez and Kira Morris each also scored.
And it was the leadership of players like Tollefson, Ekholdt, Hales, Giacone and Angelina Conant that was most satisfying for the coach.
“What impressed me was our team leadership,” Learmouth said. “Those players have really bought into the idea where we’re trying to set the whole team up for success. I was really proud of them for that.”
A young South Fork team, on the other hand, will be far more competitive again the rest of the Little 4, which also includes Del Norte this season.
“I was really proud of how well the girls played,” head coach Ann Constantino said. “We lost a lot of practice time because of the smoke and the heat. The elements have been against us, but we’re doing great.”
Senior Summer Contreras is expected to lead the way on a team that has just three seniors and two juniors with any playing experience and features numerous freshmen and sophomores.
“Summer’s playing great,” Constantino said. “She’s really the consummate senior leader right now. She’s coaching on the field and her leadership has really blossomed.”
Olivia Perkins also played well at sweeper, while Cloe McConnell has switched roles this year after volunteering to move from winger to defense to help anchor a young lineup.
Freshman goalie Molly Perkins had a baptism of fire going up against the Big 4 powerhouse, but did well in difficult circumstances and made 13 saves.