By Ray Hamill — The dragon is back.
On Saturday night, the Eureka girls got some payback for their only defeat of the season with a 4-0 win over rival Arcata in the North Coast Section soccer playoffs.
After Arcata got the better of Eureka in the regular season finale, Tigers head coach Patrick Stranahan suggested his team had slew the dragon, referring to the dominating league champion Loggers.
“The girls wanted to play Arcata again. They wanted a revenge game,” Eureka head coach Tommy Learmouth said. “The dragon is back.”
The win sets up a championship showdown on Wednesday night against Fortuna, which defeated Credo 8-2 in the other semifinal on Saturday night.
In the Division-1 boys NCS playoffs, meanwhile, it was a day of mixed fortunes for the local teams.
On Saturday afternoon, the Del Norte Warriors fell 3-0 to International in Crescent City to end their season, but the Fortuna Huskies fared better later in the day, defeating Eureka 4-1 in Fortuna.
Jesus Hererra had a hat trick for the No. 3 seeded Huskies, who are the last remaining H-DNL boys team and will advance to play at No. 2 seed Making Waves in Wednesday’s semifinal.
“I’m proud of the boys,” Holmes said.
The Del Norte boys came into Saturday’s game having not allowed a goal in six straight games, but International finally broke that run on a successful penalty kick early in the second half.
The Warriors played the remainder of the game down a man after a sending off, and they were already without the services of leading scorer Deken Hanks after he suffered an injury in Wednesday’s playoff opener.
Check out Eureka’s opening goal against Arcata below …
“We tried resolutely to even the score playing with 10 men and without our top scorer, but it was an uphill task against a very good International side,” Del Norte head coach David Sanyaolu said. “I am proud of the boys for the effort they put in today and the season overall.”
Lorena Hernandes was involved in all four of Eureka’s goals, scoring a hat trick and assisting on the other.
Maia Hales also netted in the win, while Lila Ekholdt had two assists and Ella Tollefson had one.
“I think it was night and day from the last time we played Arcata,” Learmouth said, referring to last month’s 1-0 loss to the Tigers in the league finale. “Everyone on the field knew what they were supposed to do at every moment. I’m really proud of the girls. Honestly, I think it was the best we’ve played all year.”
Hales anchored the defense once again, and every time she surged forward, teammate Paige Rodgers held the line very effectively.
“She always plays really big for us,” Learmouth said of Rodgers.
In midfield, Angelina Conant continued to have a huge impact on the team and “was constantly involved in battling,” according to her coach, alongside Tollefson, who “had one of her best games.”
Up front, Ekholdt and Hernandes have formed a dynamic partnership that continues to thrive.
“They just play well together,” Learmouth said. “The whole team played really well.”
Several Arcata players were battling sickness, which didn’t help matters going up against the No. 1 seeds.
“Not one of them gave up,” Stranahan said. “I am very proud.
“I could not have asked for a better side for my last season. Thank you to AHS for the opportunity to live my dream.”
Stranahan also paid tribute to the Loggers.
“Props to Eureka, they played well,” he said.
No stats were immediately available for the Fortuna girls.