The Soldotna and Kenai girls played a full 80 minutes with no score. Then they played 20 more minutes with no score, and so it came down to sudden death.
After 100 minutes of soccer resulting in a 0-0 score, the Stars outscored the Kards 3-2 on penalty kicks to win the Northern Lights Conference championship match on Saturday at Skyview.
It was the third straight NLC title for Soldotna, and fourth in five years. Kenai has won the NLC twice, the last time in 2009.
“We were just trying to play our game, play to feet, try to shoot the ball and crash the net, and we were doing that, but it wasn’t going in,” Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said. “After regulation was done, same thing for overtime, and you know how overtime is, everyone is in a bundled knot of nerves, and I just said just do the same things we work on in practice. Line it up, take the shot and ignore everything else.”
Soldotna had numerous shots on goal during the match, more than Kenai, but could not quite find the net.
“Soldotna had some good chances and gave us pressure, and the bottom line for us was just being fast at their position and moving the ball,” Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said. “We would’ve liked some more offensive pressure but Soldotna truly is fast.”
Both teams took a beating, especially in the overtime periods, as Taylor Ostrander from Kenai suffered a leg injury and Soldotna’s Taryn McCubbins took a ball to the face. Both recovered to play again.
“We have a lot of banged up kids playing, and Taylor had that knee to the thigh, and she was tough enough to go in there and play some more,” Verkuilen said. “That’s just kind of been our season.”
When the time came for the shootout, Kenai went first, as Vanessa Anderson punched the ball past Soldotna goalkeeper Katelynn Kerkvliet.
Soldotna’s Phoebe Napolitano missed her first shot against Kenai goalkeeper Sydney Taylor, and so Kenai had Cassie Ross try her hand at it. Ross made it.
Soldotna sent Miranda Wolfe to the line, and she put the ball in to score the first goal for the Stars.
Heidi Perkins from Kenai missed her shot, and when Soldotna’s McCubbins made her shot, the score was tied up at two apiece.
“I watch the ball, try and follow it, try to see where it goes, and try to block but I know there’s not a lot I can do about it,” Kerkvliet said.
After Ericka Reynolds from Kenai missed her shot, Skylar Shaw from Soldotna managed to convert her shot into a goal, and that left Kenai’s Lauren Schams with one last shot to keep the Kards in the game.
Unfortunately, she missed, which sent the Stars into a frenzy.
“Making the first save generally has a huge lift, and when they made the first one, we had to come back and make it,” coach Love said. “The first reaction is, oh my god, we’re down, what are we going to do? But PK’s are tough, and it’s the worst way to go in, for both teams.”
After playing a full game and then some, both teams left the pitch battered and exhausted.
“It was a 100-minute game, so shots that should’ve gone in did not,” Verkuilen said. “Even Soldotna’s shots, some were straight down the middle, and didn’t go in, and Monday there’s going to be a few kids going in for massages and things like that. They’re pretty banged up.”
With this game in the books, both Kenai and Soldotna secured berths at the state competition next weekend in Anchorage.
“We’re going in as the region champions, so the girls all like that, and we’ll see what we draw then,” Love said.
Grace 1, Wasilla 0
A similar storyline spelled the end of the Wasilla Warriors girls soccer season. Despite controlling play for the bulk of the game, the Warriors fell to Grace Christian 1-0 during the Northern Lights Conference Championships third-place match Saturday morning at Skyview High School in Soldotna.
“It seems like that’s been the story for our year. We possessed the ball for 75 percent of the game, and had great scoring chances early,” Wasilla head coach Patrick O’Neill said by cellphone from Soldotna after the loss.
Grace scored the lone goal of the game with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. O’Neill said the goal was on a shot from about 40 yards out that carried in the wind and over the reach of the Warriors goalkeeper.
With the lead, Grace changed their game plan, O’Neill said.
All-Conference girls team — 1. Rachel Thompson, G, Nikiski; 2. Kylee Wolfe, M, Soldotna; 3. Alexa Starr, MF, Wasilla; 4. Shannon McNamara, M, Grace; 5. Nikki Vanni, M, Wasilla; 6. Julie Litchfield, M, Soldotna; 7. Miracle Burton, M, Palmer; 8. Morgan Morfe, G, Palmer; 9. Savannah Nash, D, Colony; 10. Taylor Ostrander, M, Kenai; 11. Lauren Schams, F, Kenai; 12. Katrina Wood, M, Grace; 13. Chelsea Winter, D, Skyview; 14. Erin Murray, D, Wasilla.