The Arcata Tigers gave longtime girls soccer head coach Patrick Stranahan the perfect going away gift with their most impressive game of the season.
On Tuesday afternoon, in their league finale, the Arcata girls defeated rival Eureka 1-0, handing the Big 4 champs their first loss of the fall.
“We slew the dragon tonight,” said Stranahan, who added “Arcata wins on their senior night, yes, I’m a happy coach.”
The former Eureka Youth Soccer Coach of the Year and Humboldt Sports Soccer Coach of the Year in 2021 coached the boys and girls teams at Eureka for 11 years and has been in charge of the Arcata girls program for the past 14.
Stranahan said last week he would not be taking the Tigers to the North Coast Section playoffs, believing that only the top two teams in league should progress, which means Tuesday’s game was likely his last in charge.
And what a way to go out.
Stranahan arguably did one of his best coaching jobs this season, with a very young Arcata team improving substantially over the course of the past two months.
“Eureka fought hard, but on the other side, a lot of my kids who had shown promise all season long lived up to that promise,” he said of the performance. “They all played out of their heads. It was great.”
Sophia Griffin scored the only goal of the game in the opening half and the Arcata defense had to withstand a lot of pressure in the second half.
However, a well-organized Tigers defense that has was led by Sionna Khattab and Maile Russell, along with Aleta Stubblefield and Cadence Figas, helped keep a dangerous Eureka attack in check.
“The low block did its job once again,” the coach said of the unit.
So too did goalkeeper Kyndle Eisner, who has become one of the most reliable net minders in the H-DNL and made an impressive 19 saves in the win.
A disciplined Tigers team held its shape and frustrated Eureka once again, as they did earlier in league play in a 2-2 tie.
“In the middle of the field, it was just a total team effort,” Stranahan said. “The girls are really good about not jumping out of position and just being patient.”
The loss prevents the Loggers from closing out the regular season undefeated, but should keep them from getting complacent ahead of the NCS playoffs.
“We came out flat in the first half and struggled to match Arcata’s intensity,” Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth said. “We did a lot better in the second half and were able to pin them back and limit all their opportunities, but we just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net.”
The Eureka girls were crowned league champions last week.
The NCS brackets and seeds will be announced on Sunday.