By Ray Hamill — It was another highly entertaining and exciting high school soccer season here on the North Coast with plenty of success for the local teams.
Three league champions were crowned, two North Coast Section championships secured, and we even had one undefeated campaign.
In boys action, the Arcata Tigers won the program’s first outright league title in 10 years after a decade of dominance by the Fortuna Huskies.
Not to be out-done, the Eureka girls also secured an undefeated league campaign and would follow that with three NCS playoff wins on their way to a second straight section title and a third in four postseasons.
The St. Bernard’s girls also had a memorable season, winning the Little 4 title on the final day of the regular season and following that with a third straight NCS championship.
And they had to do it the hard way once again, winning a third straight championship game on the road against higher seeds.
The talking points of the 2022 season didn’t end there either.
The Del Norte girls had a breakout season after switching to the Little 4 this year and would finish in a tie for second in league play after a sensational stretch run.
The Warriors would go on to win their first-ever NCS playoff game to cap a season the players won’t easily forget.
And with a young roster made up of mostly freshmen, this team should only continue to get better.
And with all of that in mind, here then are the Humboldt Sports end-of-season awards, including our coaches of the year, our teams of the year and our players of the year, as well as some honorable mentions …
BOYS TEAM OF THE YEAR
When you finally knock off the eight-time defending league champions from their perch, you’ve got a pretty good chance of being named our team of the year.
And that’s exactly what the Tigers did, rolling to an undefeated league campaign that saw them edge rival Eureka for the pennant.
This was a senior-heavy team that played with composure and an unmatched drive all season.
The Loggers pushed the Tigers all the way in league play and the program continues to make strides every season under the guidance of head coach Eddie Garcia.
GIRLS BIG 4 COACH OF THE YEAR
Tommy Learmouth, Eureka
In his four years in charge of the program, Learmouth has now overseen two undefeated campaigns and has won back-to-back NCS championships.
Yes, he has the deepest and most talented roster on the North Coast at his disposal, but he also has his players playing as a cohesive unit and for each other and deserves a lot of credit for that.
More importantly, the Eureka girls seem to relish playing under Learmouth and assistant Melaina Valdez and they are thriving as a result.
Adam Canepa, McKinleyville
Canepa always seems to get the most out of his players and his teams are always a class act.
Soffia Reyes, McKinleyville
“Our team doesn’t function nearly as well when she’s not on the field,” Canepa said of the industrious senior, who led the league in points and set the tone for her teammates every time she took the field.
GIRLS TEAM OF THE YEAR
No team came close to matching the Loggers for overall success this year.
A team that is built around a dynamic junior class went undefeated, with just two ties along the way denying them a perfect campaign.
They were particularly dominating when they had to be, securing the league title with three games to spare and posting three straight shutouts in the NCS playoffs.
The Crusaders won a very competitive Little 4 on the final day of the regular season and went on to claim a third consecutive NCS crown.
BOYS COACH OF THE YEAR
John Davidson, Arcata
Davidson and veteran assistant coach Tuck Engelmen have had this program headed in the right direction over the past few seasons and finally got a well-deserved championship in 2022.
Under their guidance, the Tigers lived up to the high expectations coming into the season and played with a veteran-like composure down the stretch as Eureka was pushing them all the way.
And they were rewarded with a league championship.
Gian Tuccori was also an assistant coach with the team this year.
Eddie Garcia, Eureka
The Loggers head coach arguably did his best job yet this season and has his program trending in the right direction.
GIRLS LITTLE 4 COACH OF THE YEAR
Cyndi Hansen, Del Norte
Not bad for a first year in charge.
Hansen, who was an assistant with the Warriors in 2021, led a freshman-heavy team to an eight-game unbeaten run on the way to finishing second in league, and followed that with a first-ever playoff win for the Warriors in their first-ever playoff appearance.
Assistant coach Jeff Cook also has played a major role in the program’s development.
Brian Finck, St. Bernard’s
When you lead your team to a league and NCS championship double in your first year in charge, you deserve at least an honorable mention.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR (BOYS)
Ethan Gyenis, Arcata
The Arcata senior has been the most deadly striker on the North Coast for the past two seasons and is now a two-time league MVP.
He was relentless in causing opposing defenses problems all season long and finished the year with 27 goals.
Gyenis played a huge role in helping the Tigers end their championship drought, both with his play and his leadership.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR (GIRLS)
Ella Tollefson, Eureka
Maia Hales, Eureka
You could take away just about any player from the Eureka roster and the team would not miss a beat, such is the Loggers depth and talent.
Tollefson and Hales, however, both played a more crucial role than any of their teammates with their leadership and composure on the ball at opposite ends of the field.
They were more consistent than any of the many player-of-the-year candidates on this Loggers team, barely putting a foot wrong from the opening kickoff of the season to the final whistle of the NCS championship game.
The sure-footed Hales was a rock at the back and the crafty Tollefson is the most creative offensive threat in the league.
An honorable mention here for Eureka’s Lila Ekholdt, a two-time league MVP who overcame an early-season injury and had some big performances down the stretch of the season.