Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Any doubts whether the boys from Arcata and McKinleyville are in shape for this soccer season were put to rest at the McKinleyville Invitational Tournament over the weekend.
The Panthers (1-2) played three games Friday and Saturday while the Tigers (3-1) competed in three games on Saturday.
“I think we were a bit fatigued at the end of this game,” understated Arcata senior Andrew Cavinta, who scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win in the consolation final against the Panthers on a smoky late afternoon.
Let’s look at how both squads are shaping up for the 2017 campaign.
Panthers rebuild for playoff run
In his second year as head coach, McKinleyville’s Ryne Deppe can point to several players as team leaders. A former Tigers standout and Colorado State defensive back, Deppe knows a thing or two about the sport and what it takes to build a successful program.
The Panthers qualified for the playoffs last year. They expect more of the same in 2017 despite graduating key players.
“About half the players on our team are underclassmen,” coach Deppe said. “We have all these leaders who are coaches on the field, and that has helped our team blossom, to get a whole lot better a lot quicker. When you teach a skill, you actually end up knowing it better yourself.”
Logan Hansen is a senior team captain and a steady force on defense at center back. “There is always room to improve. I could do better on my touches, and some other stuff.”
Behind Hansen is Mack’s last line of defense, goalkeeper Jacob Smith. “You know, losing to Arcata is never fun, but I’m actually really pleased with the way we came out and played today. They only had a couple shots on frame, and the one goal Arcata scored – Andrew (Cavinta) is a monster. He’s burned us before on corners and crosses like that. We’ve got to mark up better.”
“The only thing we need to work on in my opinion is just putting the ball in the goal. We’re getting opportunities that we’re not finishing. Once we figure that out, we are going to be tough to beat,” Smith said.
And finishing is precisely what’s on the mind of Chris Friedley, last year’s backup goalie who is adjusting to the front line. “We have to maintain control of the ball and take shots at the goal. Don’t just pass it around, take shots on frame. Be efficient.”
Perhaps Mack’s best opportunity to score was narrowly missed when Brian Gomez, a senior center midfielder who also plays left wing, cut inside the 6-yard line but took an extra step. “I could’ve had a shot but I took one more touch because I thought I nhad a little bit more time,” he said.
Jair Gonzalez, a junior center back, covered a lot of space on the field. He credits coach Deppe with making sure the Panthers are fit. What he’d like to see is better communication and more directed passes. “Especially on defense when we have time, we just kick the ball up the field,” he said, predicting that his teammates will solve that shortcoming on their return trip to the playoffs.
Luis Melecio-Gonzalez, a junior, plays center back. He missed most of the 2016 season with a fractured ankle. “Everybody is improving, especially since the first day of practice two weeks ago. The freshmen are stepping up their game.”
Caleb Coke, a sophomore who moved from attacking midfielder to striker for the Arcata game, brings a cool head and the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. He was satisfied that the Panthers played the Tigers so evenly.
So was his coach.
“This was a great game,” Deppe said.
Tired Tigers show toughness
Arcata center defensive back Zack Oakland wasn’t that impressed with the winning effort against the Panthers. “I know we can play a lot better,” the junior said, “although there were some good moments.”
In their third game of the day, the Tigers started each half with intensity but gradually lost a step.
“A win is a win,” said Andy Miranda, junior who plays attacking midfield and front line, “but we know our potential.”
He frowned at “simple mistakes that shouldn’t be made,” and he wasn’t easy on himself. “I need to stay calm when I’m attacking the goal. I need to picture myself where I’m going to send the ball and know what I’m going to do before I actually do it.”
That would put Miranda in a class with senior Andrew Cavinta, a senior center back who played striker against Mack. He scored in all three of Arcata’s games on Saturday.
“I think we did well. I think we were composed. I got an easy volley but I think I should have scored a couple more times,” Cavinta said.
The Tigers have their eyes on Fortuna in conference. The Huskies won the MIT with a 1-0 victory against Eureka in the championship game. They defeated the Tigers in the semifinal round 4-2. “We let a couple of easy goals against Fortuna,” Cavinta said. “If we stay focused this year, I think we have the potential to win the league.”
McKinleyville ended up in the consolation final by bouncing back from a 2-0 loss to Eureka to beat St. Bernard’s 2-0.