BIG 4 SOCCER — Loggers clinch league share; Panthers keep battling

Photos by Cherie Fry Circe – Action from Tuesday’s game between Eureka and McKinleyville

It was another typical day in Big 4 girls soccer on Tuesday, as the Eureka Loggers won and the McKinleyville Panthers barely lost.

The Loggers beat the Panthers 3-2 to clinch at least a share of the league title, which they can clinch outright with as much as a tie in either of their final two Big 4 games.

Also on Tuesday, the Fortuna Huskies defeated the Arcata Tigers 2-1.

At Albee Stadium, the Loggers opened up a three-goal advantage only to see a resilient McKinleyville team rally with two goals to set up an exciting finish.

The Panthers remain winless in league play but have been in every game, with four of their past five losses coming by the narrowest of margins.

Just as impressive, unlike most of the teams that fall behind against Eureka they went on the offensive against the high-powered Loggers, who had allowed just two goals all season.

Lila Ekholdt was involved in all three Eureka goals, scoring twice and assisting on the other goal, which was scored by Lorena Hernandes.

Angelina Conant and Ella Tollefson each assisted on Ekholdt’s goals.

“I feel fortunate to come out of there with a win,” said Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth, who added “we just lost our intensity and stopped doing some things we’ve been doing well.

“But they didn’t’t quit and I appreciate that.”

Emily Mathers and Leah Circe scored for McKinleyville, with both goals coming off well-placed long-range shots.

“Credit to McKinleyville, they were two very good shots,” Learmouth said.

Once again the Panthers pushed their opponents all the way and fell by just one goal for the second time against Eureka.

“We try and battle,” Mack head coach Brady Burtchett said. “Instead of giving up, we battled back and kept on trying.”

An experienced Eureka back line of Olivianna Millender, Paige Rodgers, Maia Hales, Marin Matteoli and Kaylee Hill helped set the tone, as they have all season.

“Our defensive line was great tonight,” Learmouth said. “They all played well, and I thought our offense was really good in the first half.”

It was a tale of two halves for the visitors, who played one of their worst halves of the season in the opening period before responding to the challenge after the interval.

“We found our intensity in the second half,” Burtchett said.

Goalkeeper Caitlyn Canepa continued to play at an MVP level for the Panthers and helped to keep her team within touch early on with some quality saves, while Mathers and Circe both did a good job pressuring the Eureka defense.

At Fortuna, meanwhile, in-form freshman Ada Kinziger scored the only goal of the game for the Tigers.

It was the third straight game she has found the back of the net.

“Fortuna played a physical game that they won,” Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan said. “We just did not have the physical challenge sin the right moments as they had. So kudos to them on their senior night.”

Despite the loss, a young Arcata roster continues to make strides.

“Our team played hard as they always do, they never give up and I’m very proud of that,” the coach said. “This is an outstanding group of athletes that have acquitted themselves well.”

No details were available for Fortuna.

Next up, on Thursday, McKinleyville plays at Arcata and Fortuna travels to Eureka.

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