By Ray Hamill — If their league opener is any indication, it should be another fun fall for the St. Bernard’s girls soccer team.
The two-time defending North Coast Section champions came storming out of the gate to take a three-goal first-half lead at South Fork in Wednesday’s Little 4 opener, before the Cubs battled back to make a game of it.
But the Crusaders held on for a 5-3 win to join Ferndale as the early frontrunners in the Little 4.
The Crusaders will, however, have their challenges fielding a full roster every game, with eight of the 18 players on the squad also playing volleyball
Of course, that’s part of the sporting landscape for a small school like St. Bernard’s, and the eight particularly busy student athletes are ensuring both programs can field full teams.
After a tough early season schedule that saw them face off against all of the Big 4 teams — “we took our lumps,” said head coach Brian Finck, who added “it definitely benefited us” — the Crusaders will match up against South Fork, Ferndale and Del Norte three times each in league play.
And Finck believes the race for the championship will be a “dogfight.”
“I think it’s going to be very competitive,” he said. “Everybody’s going to compete.”
It certainly looked that way on opening day, with a pair of tight games — Ferndale edged Del Norte 2-1 in the other game.
If the Crusaders are to challenge for the title, they will need big seasons out of team leaders and co-captains Adriana Granados and Bella Maki, who will be the playmakers in center midfield.
Good things are also expected out of senior striker Shaya Robinson, who scored the opening goal on Wednesday, which was her first ever in high school soccer after she missed much of last season through injury.
“She is a competitor with determination and a never quit attitude,” Finck said.
At the other end of the field, MaTaya Amen-Sherman has looked good in goal in the early season, while facing the best attacking players in the H-DNL.
The senior shot stopper made several key saves against South Fork to help keep her team in front.
Torrin Baty is another senior attacker who has looked good early on and is one of six seniors on the team.
“I’ve got a really good group of girls with a great attitude,” the head coach said. “They have each other’s back, they pick each other up and they’re all learning together.”
A few of the players are playeing at the high school level for the first time, including Ella Jimenez and Kodi Meyer, each of whom are multi-sport athletes and have been adapting well.
And, according to the coach, the team is coming together nicely but still a work in progress.
“We’re a young team and we’ve got a lot of new players,” he said. “It’s trying to figure out what positions they fit in best and find the right combinations.”