The Del Norte girls soccer team stayed neck and neck with McKinleyville for nearly the entire first 70 minutes on Saturday, but a late goal allowed the Panthers to escape Crescent City with a 2-1 victory.

“We definitely had more confidence in this game,” said Del Norte head coach Ashley Herrera. “We were comfortable talking to the defense and communicating. We spaced out really well, which helped us match up with everyone defensively. In the second half I thought our defense got a little bit tired, so we definitely still have to work on our conditioning, but the ball movement was exceptional in this game.”

Although McKinleyville seemed to have an edge in terms of possession in the first 40 minutes of play, neither team was able to break through for a goal as the game reached halftime tied at 0-0.

The Panthers finally broke through early in the second half with a goal in the 42nd minute, but the lead was short-lived.

Junior Lanaeya Botelho received a pass just outside the penalty box and beat the Panthers’ defense around the right side. Botelho then fired a hard shot from about 15 yards out that shot across the goal, hitting the opposite side post and bouncing in to tie the game at 1-1.

“They were in a triangle formation and were passing around to each other well. Then Lanaeya got that pass,” Herrera said. “When she gets close to the goal she just wants to shoot it as hard and as quickly as she can. She just wants to take that opportunity because if not then we are going to miss it.”

The goal was the second of the season for Betelho, who has scored both of Del Norte’s goals so far this season. Herrera said she hopes Botelho’s aggressive play in front of the net will start to rub off on the rest of the team.

“All the way up and down the field everyone was trusting each other and communicating,” Herrera said. “I told them that when we get close to the goal we have to take a shot. It isn’t always about making it — you aren’t going to make every shot — as long as you make an attempt and show that you are trying your best I am fine with that.”

The score stayed tied at 1-1 for more than 20 minutes, but McKinleyville managed to hit the game winner on a long shot in the 73rd minute for the 2-1 lead.

Although the game ultimately ended in a loss, Del Norte sophomore goalkeeper Maykala Jackson had another strong performance between the pipes in just her second time playing the position. Jackson ended up with 21 saves against the Panthers and has a total of 49 saves for the season after stopping 28 shots against Arcata on Wednesday.

Jackson played mostly midfield and forward as a freshman, but Herrera said she makes it a point to teach all of the girls the basics of each position.

“Maykala just opened up and decided to try goalie, and she is just a natural athlete,” Herrera said. “She plays basketball too, so I think the quick hands from basketball have helped her out as a goalie too. Our new assistant coach (Brent Coble) played goalie and was trained by a couple professional trainers in Los Angeles. He has really been a huge asset to our program here.”

With the loss, Del Norte falls to 0-2 so far this season. The Warriors are scheduled to be back in action on Wednesday with a road game in Ferndale.

Reach Michael Zogg at mzogg@triplicate.com .

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