The Homer boys posted a resounding 4-2 victory over Wasilla on Friday in their semifinal consolation game in the ASAA state tournament at Chugiak High School.
Vegard Unhjem scored a hat trick, posting goals for Homer in quick succession, in the 57th, 62nd and 65th minutes.
“I don’t really know (what happened), I’m a center back, so it was weird for me,” Unhjem said. “We just played great as a team, we’re all really close friends, and that helps with the success.”
Robin Glosser posted Homer’s first goal in the 15th minute with an assist from Lewis Koplin, and that left the Mariners leading 1-0 by the halftime break.
When the second half started, the floodgates opened.
Unhjem scored with an assist from Lennart Von Schlichting, beating the Wasilla goalkeeper in a race to the net. He then scored again five minutes later in a similar scenario, and capped it off with a poke to the ball, assisted by Glosser.
Unhjem, who has been playing as a defensive sweeper all season, has been playing up front in this state tournament, essentially swapping spots with teammate Konstantin Reutov.
“I told (coach) Warren to let me try striker for once, and he did it,” Unhjem said. “It worked great, and me and Lennart played striker, and we’re both from Europe so it was a European combination that worked.”
Homer coach Warren Waldorf decided the switch would be better, and it has worked well so far.
“I’m kind of kicking myself after the region championship game, because I missed that,” Waldorf said. “I missed bringing Konstantin back, and looking back on that, we should’ve done that, so we decided to give it a try, and it’s working for us.”
With a 4-0 lead late in the game, it looked as though Homer had it in the bag.
However, as Waldorf was putting some of Homer’s junior varsity players in the game, Wasilla managed to score their first goal, as Kyler Perry punched the ball past Homer goalkeeper Grant Arseneau in a wild scramble in front of the net in the 75th minute. Perry had an assist from Travis Patterson.
“I was thinking that we could take three goals and still come out ahead, and we decided we didn’t want to let it get to three, so we took off some of the JV players,” Waldorf said.
Two minutes later, Arseneau was involved in a dustup with Oleg Lozko of Wasilla, as the two players made hard contact, and Wasilla received a penalty kick as a result.
Lozko converted on the kick to make the score 4-2, and suddenly the ecstatic feeling Homer had was deflating.
“We got two goals and got close to making it 4-3, and so it got pretty interesting near the end there,” Wasilla coach Blake Livingston said. “But Homer is a good team, and that’s all we had for them.”
With the final minutes playing out, it was all she wrote for both teams, and Homer came out the victor.
“It’s a sweet win, and they’re a good team, but we found out we’re the better team today,” Waldorf said.
Waldorf said the switch between Reutov and Unhjem was risky, but ultimately the right choice.
“We’ve been trying to find a way for Konstantin to play striker for years, and this was the first year we could risk bringing him out and pushing him forward, and he ended up being our second-leading scorer,” Waldorf said. “We hoped to continue doing that, but we needed his speed in the back, because these teams are good.”
With this win, Homer will play Colony in the tournament fourth-place match on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. at Dimond.
“It’s huge, right?” Waldorf said. “Three weeks ago I would have loved to have played on Saturday, and plus, we didn’t check out of our rooms today, so that would’ve been an extra 500 bucks,” he said, laughing.