Five H-DNL teams are still alive in the North Coast Section soccer playoffs, with four of them in action here on the North Coast on Wednesday night.
And key to all five teams’ success this season has been the play of each central defending pairing.
In particular on the girls side, where Fortuna, Eureka and Arcata are the top three seeds in Division I, with each featuring an outstanding partnership in the heart of their defense.
On Saturday, the junior pairing of Zoe Leonard and Sophia Salinas turned in another very strong defensive performance as the Tigers held off a dangerous Credo team 3-1 in their quarterfinal matchup.
“They’re getting stronger every game,” Arcata head coach Patrick Stranahan said of the duo.
Likewise with Eureka’s Keylei Carroll and Rebecca Russ, who have combined to set the tone on a Loggers defense that has also been outstanding for much of the season and one that has allowed just eight goals in 13 games this year, five less than either of their H-DNL rivals.
Both are also just juniors.
The Fortuna defense has been just as impressive, with Sarah Hohman and Malia Bolden anchoring a unit that also includes Moncerrat Bernal and Erica Carrillo.
Hohman is another member of the outstanding junior class, while Bolden is just a freshman, meaning all three of the league rivals should return all six central defenders next year, when they should be even better.
The Fortuna boys have also built out of the back on the strength of their defense, with senior Geovanney Ramirez playing alongside Junior Cruz and James Avendado in the center this fall.
The Huskies will hope to carry that form into Wednesday night’s NCS semifinal, where they are seeded No. 1 in Division I and will host No. 4 Fort Bragg at 5 p.m.
That game will be played as part of a doubleheader with the No. 1 Fortuna girls team, which hosts No. 5 Middletown at 7 p.m.
In the other Division-I semifinal, No. 2 Eureka and No. 3 Arcata will renew their local rivalry at Albee Stadium at 7 p.m., also on Wednesday.
On Saturday, the No. 2 seed St. Bernard’s girls will play No. 1 Technology in the Division-III championship at Rancho Cotate High.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.