By Ray Hamill — St. Bernard’s completed a rare three-peat of North Coast Section championships in girls soccer last year and will be looking to become just the second program to ever win four straight small school section titles this fall.
First up, however, they will have to navigate a tough Little 4, which was extremely competitive in 2022 and looks set to be so once again this fall.
But with several players back from their league-winning side, the Crusaders will be expected to be among the contenders for the crown once again in 2023.
Finck has a sizable roster of 18 players, although nine of those players will be playing multiple sports this fall, including eight who are also playing for the SB volleyball teams.
Among the key returning players are reigning league MVP Madelyn Shanahan and all-league selections Alyssa Boham and Hannah Finck.
Shanahan and Finck are two of the five seniors on the team, a group that also includes Arabella Maki, Amaya Her and first-year varsity player Rihana Fontenot, all of whom are expected to provide some key leadership on a roster that features nine freshmen and sophomores.
Talented all-around junior Laila Florvilus also is expected to play a key role for this year’s team, as is sophomore Amber Smith, who has impressed early in the season.
Athletic junior Aliyah Vigil also is back and appears ready to be a key contributor on a team looking to make a little bit of history.
Sophomore Emma Mowery, meanwhile, takes over in goal from the reliable Mataya Sherman, who graduated earlier this year.
A talented and deep roster also includes juniors Sarah Luna and Addisyn Burris, as well as a freshmen class of Malia Masayos, Paula Bullock, Chloe Grundens, Andrea Torres-Zarago and Tiera Baty.
The Crusaders should have a solid defense this year, and the unit has looked good through the opening four games of the campaign, which has included two shutouts and a one-goal loss.
After opening the year with a 5-0 defeat to a dangerous Fortuna team, the Crusaders bounced back to defeat McKinleyville 2-0 and followed that with a 1-0 win over Middletown and a 1-0 loss to Upper Lake.
Salvador Espinoza is coaching the team along with Finck.
Sonoma Academy is the only other program to have won four straight small schools NCS titles.