Their record may not indicate it, but the McKinleyville Panthers have quietly become one of the most competitive teams in H-DNL girls soccer.
On Thursday, a shorthanded McKinleyville team lost for the fifth time in six Big 4 games, falling 3-2 to Fortuna.
But the Panthers have only been outscored by a combined five goals in their last five games, which include three one-goal losses and a tie against Arcata.
First-year head coach Brady Burtchett’s team has shown consistent improvement all season long and the Mack players were competitive once again against a Fortuna team that has only lost twice in 15 games this season.
“We played well,” Burtchett said. “We’ve got some players a little banged up. I thought our defense did great.”
The Panthers have frustrated their opponents with some sound defense all season, with several players stepping up along the way, including Lacie Rink and Gabby Watson, who have been among the Panthers’ most consistent performers.
Goalkeeper Caitlyn Canepa also has been outstanding all season and could be the best shot stopper in league this year.
“I thought they did great for playing positions they don’t normally play,” Burtchett said.
An Allie Cox hat trick for Fortuna, however, was ultimately the difference in the game.
The Mack girls have now played all of their Big 4 opponents close, suffering one-goal losses to Eureka, Fortuna and Arcata.
That shows they can match up with any team in the H-DNL right now as they inch closer toward a potential breakthrough win.