The Soldotna girls earned their way into the Northern Lights Conference championship match on Friday by beating Wasilla 3-0, but they will have to do it without key player Kylee Wolfe.
Leading 2-0 at halftime, Soldotna was able to add to the lead in the 51st minute with a goal from Wolfe, assisted by Julie Litchfield, giving Soldotna a formidable 3-0 lead.
However, one minute later, Wolfe made hard contact with a Wasilla defender, as they were jumping for the ball, and subsequently received a red card from the referee.
“I was shocked that we got a foul, because I thought they were going up for a 50-50 ball,” Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said. “I did think our player put more pressure into it, but it looked like a fair ball, and it is what it is.”
Without Wolfe, the Stars were forced to compete down one player, but were still able to keep the lead and the win.
Because of the red card, Wolfe is also not allowed to compete in the next match, which coincidentally is the championship game against Kenai on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Skyview. Kenai beat Grace 2-0 on Friday to make their appearance in the title game.
“The red card, it happened to us yesterday against Nikiski, they got a red and played down two,” Wasilla coach Patrick O’Neill said. “So what we try to do is push the third forward up and put more pressure on them.”
Miranda Wolfe scored early for Soldotna in the ninth minute, as she moved the ball into the net in a frantic scramble with the goalie and another Wasilla defender at the net.
Taryn McCubbins scored the second goal in the 38th minute with a cross pass from Litchfield to extend Soldotna’s lead.
“At halftime, I said the next goal is key,” O’Neill said. “At 2-0, it’s hard enough, but 3-0 is really hard to come back. Our goal was to get the next score, cut the lead in half, and hopefully get them on their heels.”
Amid a number of yellow cards for both teams, Coach Love said the tension of the game was heightened because of the playoff situation.
“At halftime I wasn’t telling them anything I haven’t told them from day one, just play defeat, maintain a level head, and I think a lot of what was being called at this game was a direct reflection of what happened yesterday at the other field,” Love said. “I don’t have a problem with that, it’s just sometimes you can over-call games, and maybe some of those calls may have been precautionary.
“Sometimes it takes away from the players and they start second-guessing themselves, so I told them to keep playing the way you are, and if you get a call, just deal with it.”
Love said playing without Wolfe will be detrimental, but Soldotna has what it takes to win without her.
“It’s going to change the dynamic of it, she’s obviously a key player, but we have a lot of depth,” Love said. “And maybe not that kind of depth, but we have a lot of players who can fill that role.”