Photo courtesy of Joy Hano | The Cal Poly Humboldt women's soccer team celebrates after Mia Castaneda's game clinching goal against Cal Poly Pomona on Oct. 2.

Cal Poly Humboldt Women’s Soccer Makes Playoffs For The First Time Since 2006

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by Jake Knoeller

It is a sunny fall afternoon on Thursday, Oct. 27; Coach Grant Landy is getting water dumped on him by his players as the final whistle sounds. His 400th win as a head coach is official.

The 1-0 home victory over Chico State, along with other results around the league favoring Cal Poly Humboldt’s women’s soccer team, means they found a way in. They had clinched a spot in the playoffs on the final day of the season, and they would have a bigger game to play after the regular season for the first time since 2006.

This matchup was never going to be an easy one for the Lumberjacks, with most of the game being very physical. It involved both teams keeping a balance of looking to get the first goal and go ahead, but also stay back enough to protect their net.

In minute 65, Humboldt found their breakthrough. Forward Kylea Becker stepped up to take a corner kick from the right side, and the low ball into the box found the feet of Humboldt defender Megan Janikowski. Janikowski’s goal, her first of the season, was the difference between the teams in the end. 

The cheers from the players and the crowd were deafening as the team rushed the field to celebrate after the final whistle. Coaches and athletic staff had their phones out checking the scores around the league to make sure they had made the playoffs for sure.

“I remember we all ran together for a huge group hug and started chanting,” said defender Abby Borg. “The energy was electric and it was so fun to be a part of that historical moment.”

When the news broke that the results had gone in Humboldt’s favor, Landy announced it to his players and the celebrations rang out. This playoff berth was something they worked tirelessly for. 

“I’m so proud of the players for their effort today and for the entire season,” said Landy in an interview with Humboldt Athletics. “Today was a culmination of a lot of hard work, perseverance, and belief.”

The women’s soccer team also managed to go undefeated at home this season, with a 6-0-3 record.

After this win to finish off the regular season, the Jacks would travel to Chico for their playoff game. This matchup being a rematch was a result of seeding, with Chico finishing fourth and Humboldt finishing fifth. 

The game in Chico was another tough battle for Humboldt, but this time they didn’t come out on top. A difficult second half had Humboldt trailing 1-0, when Grace Johnson got into the penalty area and found her teammate Jysabella Tolentino to level the score at 1-1.

After conceding again in overtime, a 2-1 loss brought Humboldt’s season to a close.

“On one hand, it was hard losing to a team we knew we could beat, we did it just days before. It was a bummer losing out so fast in the tournament,” said goalkeeper Carson Thomson-Terrel. “But on the flip side, I was so proud of everyone.”

Although this meant the end to the season, the team’s strides forward this year were undeniable, and they are left with many positive memories.

“I was really proud of how we responded to get the equalizing goal in the second half,” said Landy in an interview with Humboldt Athletics. “This team has been resilient all year and their work rate and belief was tremendous today.”

Players have spoken about how Coach Landy influenced them in positive ways throughout the season. 

“As a team, it is pretty obvious that Grant has really helped the program grow and improve,” said Thomson-Terrel. “He’s a great coach as well as a good mentor.”

Borg just completed her first full season of conference play after tearing her ACL freshman year and credits Landy for helping her get back on track despite her injury. . 

“He never counted me out and pushed me to be the best player that I can be,” said Borg. 

An offseason of hard work awaits both Lumberjack soccer teams. There are a lot of promising starts to build on in 2023, and many things to be proud of. 

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