The Ferndale Wildcats kicked off league play with a come-from-behind win over Del Norte in girls soccer in Crescent City on Tuesday.
The Ferndale girls trailed by a goal at halftime, but scored two unanswered goals after the break to pull out a 2-1 win and join St. Bernard’s atop the Little 4 standings after the opening round.
Even more encouraging was the team performance, as the Cats appear to be turning a corner.
“I feel like it was the first time we played as a full unit, which was great to see,” said head coach Bailey Davy, who was happy with the play from her defensive players, her midfielders and the forwards.
Elizabeth Lopez opened the scoring for Del Norte, as the Warriors look to carry the momentum they built in league play last year over to this season.
But Ferndale sweeper Regan Russ would tie things up on a well-placed free kick and Madison Gossi would add a second strike to seal the road win.
The Cats defense paved the way to victory, with Clara Christiansen and Michaela Ellsmore both impressing alongside the consistent Russ.
The Warriors had a second goal by Alexis Aguirre called back for an offsides call, but Del Norte goalkeeper Avery Ritter continued to play well between the posts and has earned the praise of her coach after handling a tough early-season schedule against Big 4 teams.
Ritter appears to be adapting well to the role of starter.
“I’m really impressed with our young goalkeeper’s movement and positioning in the goal,” head coach Cyndi Hansen said.
The Warriors are now 0-1 in the Little 4 and 0-5 overall, while the Wildcats improved to 1-0 and 1-3-1.
The Ferndale girls have had to battle more than just the Big 4 schools through the early going, with a small roster of just 13 players on hand, only 11 of whom have been available for the first five games.
They dropped games against the H-DNL powerhouse programs of Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna, but pulled out a 0-0 tie with McKinleyville to give themselves some momentum heading into league play and they are now unbeaten in two straight games.
So what has impressed the head coach the most about this group of players through the opening few weeks?
“I would say their resilience so far has been really good,” said Davy, whose team only had 10 players suit up against Eureka. “And to see them working as a team.”
First-year goalkeeper Tinnley Pidgeon also has impressed and has shown a lot of growth early in the season while working with assistant coach Brenden McDonald.
“She’s been working really hard,” Davy said of the sophomore shot stopper.
And that has helped the team defense, which has been one of the Cats’ strengths this year.
In addition to challenging for a league title, the Ferndale players are also hoping to make some noise in the North Coast Section playoffs after disappointing exits in the semifinals in each of the last two years, including an overtime loss to Upper Lake on a penalty kick in 2022.
“We ended our season last year on a crummy note, so our motto from last year is we have some unfinished business,” Davy said. “We want to win the Little 4 and go to the playoffs again.”
On Tuesday they took the first step toward both of those goals.
Davy hopes to have a full roster of 13 available again by next week.
Next up, on Thursday, the Wildcats play South Fork and the Warriors play at St. Bernard’s.