The Homer boys nearly produced an upset against top-seeded Dimond on Thursday in the ASAA state soccer championships, but ended up with a 2-1 loss.
The Mariners found themselves in a hole early on as Dimond scored in the eighth minute. Matt Froelich used a diagonal shot to punch the ball past Homer goalkeeper Grant Arseneau.
However, Homer coach Warren Waldorf had a plan.
“We had a plan worked out today, and we thought Vegard (Unhjem) had a goal in him today, and we knew we were going to try it about 27 to 28 minutes into the first half,” Waldorf said. “We made switch, and he made the goal.”
Unhjem scored in the 31st minute off an assist from Lennart Von Schlichting to tie the game up, touching the ball at the precise moment to roll it past Dimond goalkeeper Arturo Oberto, who had moved out to attempt to catch the ball.
It was all for naught in the end, though, as Dimond attacked early in the second half, scoring in the 44th minute as Travis Merritt notched the goal.
“That was the best soccer team that we’ve played all season by far,” Dimond coach John Oliver said. “They looked organized and like they had an idea, and their style looked like soccer. Even the best teams in Anchorage are playing a direct game against us.”
Oliver was surprised at the threat that Homer presented, saying the eighth-seed assignment to Homer was not indicative of the Mariners’ true depth.
“Homer is good, and I said we needed to settle down and play our soccer, and because the other team was playing better, we reverted to playing the ball in the air,” Oliver said. “The other thing was that Homer was just working harder. They were winning the second ball more than us.”
Waldorf said Homer is finally realizing its own potential. The speed the Mariners found while playing on the Dimond turf field was illustrated by Lewis Koplin, who, according to Waldorf, has never run so fast.
“The Dimond coach told the boys that this is the best team they’ve played this year, so we have nothing to hang our heads about, and now we know a little more about ourselves,” Waldorf said. “We can play with the best teams in the state. We’re happy and proud of that, and their confidence just took a great leap today.”
Dimond advances to the semifinal round against a familiar foe, South Anchorage.
Homer will also advance to a familiar team on Friday — Wasilla, a team that they lost to last week in the Northern Lights Conference championship game. The game starts at 1 p.m. at Chugiak High School.