By Ray Hamill — The Crusaders kept their hopes of a North Coast Section three-peat on track with a 2-1 win over Mendocino in their Division-3 semi-final at St. Bernard’s on Wednesday afternoon.
The No. 2 seeds will play for the section championship this weekend against No. 1 Upper Lake, which defeated No. 4 Ferndale 3-2 in overtime in the other semifinal on Wednesday night.
In other NCS games involving local teams on Wednesday, the Del Norte boys fell 4-2 to Lower Lake in Division 1 action, while the South Fork boys fell 6-0 at Bentley in the Division-2 bracket.
The St. Bernard’s girls are the two-time defending section champions in their division, after winning the pennant last year and in 2019 (there were no playoffs held in 2020), and their four NCS titles in total are the most by any local team, boys or girls.
This weekend they will have the opportunity to add to that tally after a solid performance and a well-deserved win against Mendocino.
Amber Smith opened the scoring for the home team 17 minutes into the game, pouncing on a rebound in the goalmouth after a long range shot from Sahara Tupua, who did a good job winning possession out wide to set up the move.
Just six minutes later, Amaiyah Her made it 2-0 with a well-placed shot after being set up on an nice pass from Laila Florvilus.
Check out both St. Bernard’s goals above …
Thanks to their midfielders, the Crusaders enjoyed the better share of possession and could have won by more.
“We had lots of opportunities to break the game open but we had trouble finding the back of the goal,” head coach Brian Finck said.
The Mendocino girls pulled one back shortly before halftime and remained in touch the remainder of the way with junior Stevie Lundquist particularly dangerous throughout.
They had their opportunities to tie things up with some nice possession in the second half, but the St. Bernard’s back line of Madelyn Shanahan, Kodi Meyer, Alyssa Boham and Addisyn Burris held firm, and when the visitors did manage to threaten the goal, senior goalie Mataya Sherman was up to the challenge with anther strong performance.
“Our ever-consistent keeper made some great decisions and blocked some well-struck shots,” Finck said.
The midfield of Florvilus, Hannah Finck, Kaylee Hill, Arabella Maki and Adriana Granados controlled the game throughout.
“It was an effort by committee,” the head coach said. “This combined effort allowed us to have fresh legs under us.”
The visitors, to their credit, continued to battle all the way to the final whistle, and the home crowd was relieved to finally hear it.
“They were a well-coached team that played a tough game,” Brian Finck said.
In the other Division-3 semifinal, Reaghan Langer and Miriam Guerrero both scored for the Wildcats at Upper Lake.
Check out video footage of Reaghan Langer’s goal for Ferndale at Upper Lake below …
Lower Lake 4, Del Norte 2
Up in Crescent City, meanwhile, the Del Norte boys saw a memorable season come to an end when they fell to the Trojans, who now advance to play Arcata in the semifinals on Saturday.
But the No. 10 seeded Trojans came battling back with four unanswered goals and held the Warriors scoreless in the second half to secure the win.
Del Norte 1, Fort Bragg 0
The Del Norte girls continued their memorable season and stretched their unbeaten run to eight straight games with a playoff win at Fort Bragg.
Alexis Aguirre scored the only goal of the game with an assist from Mayleah Jackson, and that was all the Del Norte defense and outstanding goalkeeper Deja Payne would need.
Payne saved a second penalty kick in two weeks to help seal the win, and she also stopped a shot off the rebound, before defender Aurora Mitchell cleared the danger.
“I’m very proud of these girls,” head coach Cyndi Hansen said. “They all stepped up and worked hard to get this win.”