By Ray Hamill — A young Arcata girls soccer team has been the most exciting to watch on the North Coast this fall.
Only one of the Tigers’ six games has been decided by more than two goals — one way or the other — and on Tuesday afternoon they became the first local team to take points from Big 4 leaders Eureka, tying the Loggers 2-2 at Arcata High.
More impressive was the manner in which they did so, rallying from a two-goal deficit with the first two goals scored against the Eureka defense all season.
“Every day, every game they improve somehow in some way,” longtime Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan said. “We are very young but we’re starting to gel.”
It certainly wasn’t a poor performance for the Loggers, who came into the game fresh off a key 2-0 weekend win over Fortuna that left them alone atop the league standings.
And after opening up a two-goal advantage early in the second half on two wonderful goals, it appeared to be business as usual for the defending league champs.
But the Tigers stuck to their game plan and it worked to perfection as they soaked up pressure and tried to catch the Loggers on the counter.
“I thought Arcata played a very frustrating style of soccer,” Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth said. “But they executed their game plan very well.”
Stranahan echoed the sentiment.
“The girls did everything we talked about,” he said. “Playing compact, repelling attacks and attacking when we can. Our girls came back and did what they had to do.”
A pair of MVP candidates put the visitors up 2-0.
Senior defender Maia Hales, who has been a rock at the back, opened the scoring on a long range shot early in the second half, and senior attacking midfielder Lila Ekholdt added a second goal a few minutes later, with Hales providing the assist.
Marin Matteoli assisted on Hale’s goal.
“I’m disappointed. I feel like we got two goals in the second half and then lost our composure,” Learmouth said. “We gave up a couple of fouls we shouldn’t give up and that led to the goals, and Arcata capitalized.”
The opportunistic Quinlyn Rush Copple scored both goals for the home team 12 minutes apart, with Sophia Griffin and Sionna Khattab assisting on them.
Those three players, along with Maile Russell have been setting the tone for the Tigers all season.
Khattab and Russell have anchored the defense, with Rush Copple and Griffin holding down the midfield just in front of them, giving the Tigers a solid foundation to build off.
“The four of them keep communicating,” Stranahan said. “They’re really strong vocally and it’s just a good core group to have.”
Check out Arcata’s tying goal scored by Quinlyn Rush Copple below …
Ekholdt was outstanding again for the Loggers on Tuesday and was a threat going forward every time she touched the ball, while teammate Angelina Conant continues to shine just behind her in midfield and has been one of her team’s most consistent players since day one.
“Angelina continued to be lights out,” Learmouth said.
Paige Rodgers also has provided a consistent presence in defense, which is allowing Hales venture farther up the field and provide an additional threat in attack.
“We’ll look to learn from this and we’ll be better,” Learmouth said.
The young Arcata players will take some confidence from the result.
“I’m really proud of them,” Stranahan said. “They did exactly what we talked about.”
Next up, on Thursday, Eureka plays at McKinleyville and Arcata hosts Fortuna.