Fortuna’s Sarah Jensen goes high to take control of a header in the first half of Fortuna’s 3-1 win over Arcata in the semifinal round of the Humboldt-Del Norte League tournament, Thursday night in Fortuna. (Jose Quezada — For the Times-Standard)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The powerhouse that is Eureka High girls soccer will look to advance to the championship round of the North Coast Section Division-I fall soccer playoffs when it hosts Middletown on Wednesday while the defending NCS champions, Fortuna, will host Arcata on Wednesday with the same goal in mind. Over in the boys D-I bracket, Fortuna will hit the road on Wednesday for a semifinal match against undefeated Fort Bragg with a fourth straight trip to the NCS title round on the line and Del Norte will look to advance to its first-ever NCS title match on Wednesday as well when it faces top-seeded International.

No. 4 Middletown (21-2-2) at No. 1 Eureka (17-0)

102 goals for and 2 goals against. Feel free to dig deeper into Eureka’s 2018 stat sheet if you want, but all you need to know is the aforementioned. The Loggers are the No. 1 ranked fall soccer team in California according to MaxPreps and the clear front runner in these NCS playoffs. Eureka this season, under the direction of head coach Andy Salatnay, has won via shutout in 16 of its 17 games and has not won by less than two goals in any game this season. On Wednesday, the Loggers will host high-scoring Middletown at 7 p.m. at Albee Stadium with a trip to the NCS championship match in store for the winner.

“Our girls are very confident with their style of play,” Salatnay said. “We run into trouble when we put too much pressure on ourselves, we just need to let the game come to us and not force our shots or passes.”

Eureka is lead by Olivia Stone, the team’s leading goal scorer with 34 made shots this season. Klayre Barres and Athena Miller have also helped to fill the net for Eureka this season with 17 and 16 goals, respectively. Salatnay said the back line of his defense, headed by Rebecca Russ and Madie Evansizer, is large part of the Loggers’ success even if their contributions don’t show up on the stat sheet.

“Our back line lets our midfield push the ball up the field because they know that the defense will shut anything down that comes through,” Salatnay said. “And they have the ability to be potent offensive players as well when they push up, it’s a big part of our team that can go unnoticed.”

Middletown has enjoyed its share of offensive success this season as well, scoring 95 goals in 25 games while only allowing 16. Middletown is lead in scoring by Sophie Kucer, who has 31 goals and 14 assists so far in 2018. Middletown beat McKinleyville 3-1 on Nov. 3 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal match against Eureka. The Loggers took down No. 8 Cloverfield 2-0 back on Nov. 3 as well to earn a spot in Wednesday’s match.

No. 3 Arcata (13-7-1) at No. 2 Fortuna (14-4-1)

Across the bracket from Eureka is the other D-I semifinal match, and it is an exclusively local one as Arcata will head south to the Friendly City to face Fortuna at 7 p.m., at Fortuna High.

Both Arcata and Fortuna enter Wednesday’s match coming off of lopsided victories in the tournament’s previous round. Arcata downed visiting No. 6 Roseland University Prep 6-1 on Nov. 3 and Fortuna enjoyed a 7-2 win over No. 10 Lower Lake, at home on Nov. 3 as well.

Should Fortuna win Wednesday’s match it will move on to its second straight NCS championship showdown. Fortuna beat Eureka last year in a 0-0 match that went to penalty kicks to claim the 2017 NCS title.

Fortuna beat Arcata all four times the two teams met during the regular season but the Huskies’ head coach Kevin O’Neil said he’s far from comfortable when it comes to playing the Tigers.

“All the matches we played, even though we won them all, were very close,” O’Neil said. “We’re not comfortable at all.”

Fortuna found a wealth of help from some of its youngest players during the season, as several seniors from last year’s championship team were not around to help the Huskies in 2018. Freshman forward Kallia Yang leads the Huskies in scoring with 18 goals this season. Sophomore forward Sarah Killfoil is second on the team with 16 goals made and freshman Nyah Cacren is third on the team with 10 goals.

“I think we’ve done well as a team, just in staying together and defending as a unit,” O’Neil said. “Our forwards have done a great job at finishing.”

Arcata’s leading goal scorer, Karina Zumbrun, is also the Humboldt-Del Norte League’s leading goal scorer. She has 37 goals this season and is coming off a hat trick against Roseland University Prep. Nina Crossen is Arcata’s third leading goal scorer (10) but according to the Tigers’ head coach, Patrick Stranahan, Crossen is as large a part of Arcata’s success as anyone.

“She’s the unsung hero of the middle of the field for our team,” Stranahan said. “She keeps control of the game at her midfield position and does a great job of it.”

Stranahan said although his team lost to Fortuna four times during the season, his girls are not afraid.

“Those games were a lot of narrow misses, bad bounces and small things that we feel like we can overcome when we play them again,” Stranahan said.

No. 3 Fortuna (20-1-2) at No. 2 Fort Bragg (15-0-3)

The Fortuna boys will have to take down undefeated Fort Bragg Wednesday, in Fort Bragg, if it wants to make it to its fourth straight NCS title match.

Fortuna enters Wednesday’s contest fresh off a 3-1 win against No. 6 Oakland Military Institute on Nov. 3. Fortuna, a young team, has been lead by the play of its forwards Luis Atilano, Oliver Herrera and Aaron Mignon throughout the season and will look for contributions from them on Wednesday.

No. 5 Del Norte (12-2-3) at No. 1 International (14-1-1)

Del Norte, already further into a postseason run than ever before in school history, will look to advance to the NCS title round when it takes on top-seeded International on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in San Francisco at Kezar Stadium.

Del Norte has previously never advanced beyond the first round of the NCS playoffs until this season when it earned a bye and an automatic birth in the quarterfinals. Del Norte beat Gateway on Nov. 3 5-4 in penalty kicks after 100 scoreless minutes to reach Wednesday’s semifinal match.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus