Robert Husseman, The Triplicate

Early losses shake an experienced squad missing its top 2 scorers from 2012

Del Norte's first home game Wednesday did not quite go as planned. Rather than playing as a unit, the Warriors played segmented soccer among the three positional units.

Del Norte dropped its second straight game to open the season as the Ferndale Wildcats scored two second-half goals to drop the Warriors, 2-0, at Del Norte High School.

It was also Del Norte's second game in the past two days. The Warriors traveled to Cave Junction, Ore., on Tuesday to face Illinois Valley High. The Cougars defeated Del Norte 4-1; junior Silvia Cajita scored the Warriors' only goal and had a second goal disallowed by a referee's ruling.

"I think yesterday's game affected us," Del Norte head coach Clar Byers said Wednesday evening, after the Ferndale contest.

From start to finish, the Warriors struggled to advance the ball from defenders to midfielders and from midfielders to forwards. Passes were either late, off target or sent into traffic, where Wildcats players had a crack at them. As a result, Ferndale controlled the ball - and the pace of play - for much of the game.

"We can't make triangles to make passes," junior midfielder Bina Gonzalez said. "We just boot it and hope somebody's there."

With the lack of consistent passing came a lack of shots on goal. The Wildcats bested the Warriors 27-10 in that category, attempting 17 shots in the second half as Del Norte began to wear down.

The top two scorers for the Warriors in 2012 - Wendy Morales and Fernanda Herrera - have graduated, leaving an opportunity for some of Del Norte's 11 returners to assume the more prominent forward roles. Cajita and Hailey Hulse started as forwards for the Warriors against Ferndale, with Gonzalez, Christina Levy, Paige Pingree and Lupe Gonzalez in the midfield. Seniors Ali Olson and Deleana Saylor also play outside positions for the Warriors.

"With last year's seniors that graduated, we kind of lost our attack up front, but it's still there because Christina, Bina and Deleana have an outside shot," Byers said.

The Del Norte defense was battle-tested during last season's 3-11-2 campaign, but it may be the team's strongest overall unit. Maddie Critz emerged as one of the most consistent players on the team as a freshman last season; she and sophomore Karina Moseley return to give the Warriors a fast and occasionally physical back line.

"Our defense can run down when there's a ball kicked," Gonzalez said.

Senior Kira Standring is the team's last line of defense, entering her second year as a starter at goalkeeper. Standring, who recorded 11 saves against Ferndale on Thursday, grew into the position to become a reliable backstop for Byers.

"I'm really excited about Kira playing goalie," Critz said. "She's really fast and has no compunction about leaving her feet."

Experience is in great supply among the 23 rostered players, 19 of whom suited up for the Ferndale game, but consistency remains an issue.

Coming out of halftime, the Wildcats immediately moved the ball deep into Del Norte territory. A Warriors player attempted a pass from the goalie box through the middle of the field, but the pass was intercepted by Ferndale. Emma Gomes of the Wildcats eventually connected with Genevieve Regli for the game's first goal, in the 43rd minute.

As the game wore on, Del Norte faded physically and the Wildcats continued to push the ball deep into the Warriors' territory. A foul in the goalie box led to a penalty kick in the 81st minute; Gomes beat Standring for the game's second goal.

On the bench, a war of words broke out among some Warriors, leading assistant coach Lauren Byers - Clar Byers' daughter and a former Del Norte soccer player - to investigate and talk with the offending parties.

"Lot of drama today between girls," Gonzalez said. "We have a lot of girls that don't really know how to work together."

That must happen soon, with the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5 League season a week away. The Warriors finished 0-8 in league play in 2012, and nobody on the roster has participated in a win over an HDN Big 5 opponent.

Del Norte stays at home for its next game, Saturday against St. Bernard's Catholic High at 11 a.m.

Reach Robert Husseman


Sept. 3: Illinois Valley 4, Del Norte 1


Sept. 7: St. Bernard's at home, 11 a.m.

Sept. 10: Illinois Valley at home, 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 11: at McKinleyville, TBD

Sept. 14: Eureka at home, 11 a.m.

Sept. 18: at St. Bernard's, 11 a.m.

Sept. 21: at South Fork, 11 a.m.

Sept. 23: Eagle Point at home, 3:30 p.m.

Sept. 25: at Fortuna, 5 p.m.

Sept. 28: Arcata at home, 11 a.m.

Oct. 2: at Ferndale, TBD

Oct. 5: McKinleyville at home, 11 a.m.

Oct. 9: at Eureka, 5 p.m.

Oct. 16: South Fork at home, 3:30 p.m.

Oct. 19: Fortuna at home, 11 a.m.

Oct. 23: at Arcata, 3:30 p.m.