The Eureka Loggers kept their unbeaten start to the Big 4 going with a fourth straight win on Saturday, but the McKinleyville Panthers pushed them all the way and did something no other team has done this year in league play.
The Loggers came into the game having outscored their first three opponents 17-0 and they had not been scored on in any game since a 1-1 preseason tie with Fortuna in August.
But it took the Panthers just five minutes to find the back of the net and the game was tied 2-2 until the final minutes, when sophomore striker Lorena Hernandes scored her second goal of the day to give Eureka a 3-2 victory.
The game was a lot closer than the first league matchup between the two, which the Loggers won 5-0, but that’s not a big surprise for a Panthers team that can play with anyone on their day.
“It was a very competitive game,” McKinleyville head coach Adam Canepa said. “Our girls played really, really well. I’m very proud of my team.
“We wanted to come out with the W, but we played so well, I think we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
The in-form Leah Circe continued her impressive week by scoring the opening goal on a Soffia Reyes cornerback, but Hernandes tied things up five minutes before halftime, also off of a cornerback.
With about 15 minutes remaining, 2021 league MVP Lila Ekholdt gave Eureka the lead — once again off of a cornerback — but just three minutes later Taya Gomes brought the Panthers level again on a free kick from outside the box.
Caitlyn Canepa had a big game between the posts for the Panthers, who played disciplined defense in front of her.
“She came up huge many times,” the head coach said o this goalie. “She didn’t make any mistakes. There’s not a lot she could have done about the goals that ended up going in.”
The Loggers, meanwhile, faced their first real adversity of the season and passed with flying colors, following an impressive 4-0 win over Arcata on Wednesday with a gutsy performance on Saturday.
“McKinleyville played a style of soccer that really frustrated us,” Learmouth said of the Panthers, who defended in numbers. “Credit to McKinleyville for buying into that style. It’s frustrating to play against for any team.
“It was a tough game to go through and it was nice to see the team fight through it. We faced some adversity and nobody started nagging or bickering. They rallied together. It brought out a different side to the team.”
The Loggers defense also played well despite allowing goals for the first time in eight games.
“Even though we gave up two goals, they played well,” Learmouth said. “McKinleyville has two dynamic players in Thea Trout and Soffia Reyes, and our defense was up to the task of slowing them down.”