The Soldotna girls ended their 2012 ASAA state soccer tournament Saturday with a 1-1 tie against Dimond in the third-place match at Dimond High School.
The Stars will share the third-place distinction with Dimond this year, as overtime periods and penalty kicks were not used in order to avoid delays throughout the day. The third-place finish matches the high-water mark for Kenai Peninsula soccer set by the Skyview boys in 2004.
The one striking similarity between the three games Soldotna played during the three-day tournament is that they found themselves down 1-0 at halftime in every game, scoring a win, a loss and a tie in those three games.
“I guess we got the trifecta,” Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said.
In Saturday’s edition, Dimond scored in the 30th minute, as Aaliyah Lewis managed to beat Soldotna goalkeeper Katelynn Kerkvliet and knock the ball easily in the net.
Kerkvliet had her hands full all game long, making 15 saves, compared to Dimond’s goalkeeper, who had nine saves.
“I’m just thinking, cut down the angle, get past the net and set your feet, and when they shoot I just go where the ball is,” Kerkvliet said afterward. “It’s pretty complicated but it’s fun. I like the pressure.”
Soldotna finally scored in the 55th minute on a free kick near the Dimond goal.
Kylee Wolfe took the kick and Julie Litchfield managed to put herself in the right position in the frantic scramble to head the ball in the net.
“You can sit here and say what you want, but I really felt like we had the momentum and we had them on their heels,” Love said. “I would have loved to have gone into overtime, but it is what it is.”
Even with the momentum shift, Soldotna was never able to get the winning goal, even though the Stars came close on a number of occasions, as Dimond stifled the Soldotna offense.
“We were preaching to them at halftime, saying you’re down 1-0 to a top seed, and everything we’ve taught you all year you can use to beat Dimond, and they showed it,” Love said. “We changed our formation a bit today, and we were thinking it would help us defensively, and I don’t know if it helped us as much defensively as it hurt us offensively.
“Just having that one forward up there, it was hard to work up top.”
Love said he was so engaged in the game that he forgot that no overtime periods would be used.
“I was ready to go into overtime, but then I realized that it was over, but I’m proud of them,” he said. “I talked to my keeper yesterday, and she was kind of hesitant, and I said I’m going to support your decision (of how to attack) all the way.
“I said if you go, you go hard, and she made that decision to go full bore, and I stuck behind her.”
Even though the game ended up a draw, Kerkvliet said she’s taking nothing away from this game.
“We’ve never come here and gotten this far before, so it’s pretty neat,” she said.
Terry Curran, head coach of Dimond, said it was hard to motivate his team to play hard after they were eliminated from the chance to play in the championship game on Friday, after losing to South Anchorage in penalty kicks.
“I think that we came out not as strong as we would have liked,” Curran said. “But Soldotna is quite a handful, and their goalkeeper had a lot of good saves today, and we had plenty of opportunities that didn’t go through.”
Love said the experience really taught the team that they can compete with almost any team in the state.
“I told them we’re not here on a vacation, or camping trip, or shopping spree,” he said. “We’re here to play soccer, and deep down I knew we could compete with Anchorage, and they needed someone to come out here and show them they could do it.”
Service girls 4, Kenai 0
The Service girls shut out Kenai on Saturday morning at Dimond High School to grab fourth-place honors at the ASAA state soccer tournament.
The Cougars controlled possession of the ball for the majority of the match, but Kenai held strong offensively, despite the plethora of scrapes and bruises Kenai has endured throughout the three-day tournament.
“It wasn’t even hard, but they knew Service is a quality team and that’s why we came, and we never played them before so we knew it was going to be a challenge,” Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said. “We’re kind of in triage here, with getting everyone’s knees and ankles taken care of so they can play.”
Jesslin Wooliver of Service opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a shot past Kenai goalkeeper Sydney Taylor.
“I’m proud of Sydney because we started her out as a freshman, never having played goalie in her life, and in three years you see what she can do,” Verkuilen said.
Taylor saved her team on Friday when Kenai pulled out a win against Grace that ended in penalty kicks. She blocked all but one shot from Grace in that game.
“I’m nervous, of course, but I just focus and do what I can, and if it’s a really good kick and it goes in then it goes in,” Taylor said. “I just concentrated on the ball and see where it’s going and waited, and there’s nothing you can plan for, you just react to it.”
Service kept pressing hard in the first half, scoring a second goal at the 19-minute mark, this time from Rachel Juliussen.
“I’m really pleased with them, they played really well,” Service coach Mark Cascolan said. “Rachel is doing really well, she stepped in for another player and has really taken to it and done well.
“The last two games against Juneau and Kenai, we’ve been coming together and doing some good stuff.”
Juliussen scored a hat trick, putting in goals in the 45th and 63rd minutes, as well.
Service was able to record 11 shots on goal against Kenai, and the Kards had two shots.
“The kids really worked hard and we were able to get everyone in and playing, so it was just a team effort and truly a good season,” Verkuilen said. “We’re not a team of superstars but they are hardcore and work really hard.”
Verkuilen said the best lesson Kenai learned in the three days in Anchorage was rest and ice, in order to take care of the injuries.
“Teamwork is important because when you have a player that is hurt, you can put someone else in,” Verkuilen said. “Most teams don’t get this far because of that.”