WASILLA — Mere seconds after it looked as if Soldotna standout Cory Carver was about to tie the game, the Stars stood stunned by a two-goal deficit.
On the heels of an outstanding save by Wasilla senior goalkeeper Corey Hogan, Wasilla junior Ethan Keenan scored to push his team’s lead to 3-1, and help lead the Warriors to a 4-2 win over Soldotna at Wasilla High on Saturday.
“It went from a potential 2-2 game to a 3-1 game in a span of about 30 seconds,” Wasilla head coach Blake Livingston said.
Early in the second half, with Wasilla clinging to a 2-1 lead, Carver chased a loose ball through the midfield. Carver beat the defense just as Hogan came out to challenge. Right when Carver set up to fire his shot, Hogan slid through the dirt and took the shot off his midsection.
“He had a couple of great saves,” Soldotna head coach Jeff Siemers said of Hogan. “We had a lot of opportunities. We just didn’t finish on them.”
Hogan knocked the ball away with the save, and it was picked up by the Warriors. Senior Kyler Perry immediately sent a long ball up the right side of the field to Elijah Crawford. In the right corner of the field, Crawford settled the ball, and sent a pass across the field to Keenan, who was able to score.
“They finished on some good quality plays,” Siemers said.
In the 55th minute, Wasilla took its biggest lead of the game. Perry sent another long pass up the field. Oleg Lozko chased down the pass and Soldotna goalkeeper Kayne North came out to challenge. Lozko was able to chip the ball past North, and the shot rolled into the net to give the Warriors the 4-1 lead.
Wasilla took a quick 2-0 lead in the game, scoring its first goal within the first minute of regulation. Keenan sent a through ball up the middle. Crawford chased it down, and scored on a breakaway.
“Anytime the other team scores in the first minute, you’re digging yourself out of a hole,” Siemers said.
Junior Cash McGregor added a goal about 10 minutes into the first half, scoring on a header set up by an Aaron Brown cross.
“It’s nice to come out and kind of dictate the pace of the game early on,” Livingston said.
Soldotna didn’t back down after the score. During the 28th minute, Ty Fenton got the ball in the right side of the penalty box, and fired a shot past Hogan to cut Wasilla’s lead to 2-1.
“Soldotna actually got some of the momentum there at the end of the first,” Livingston said.
Carver converted a penalty kick in the second half for the Stars.
“We knew it would be a good, strong, physical game,” Siemers said after the loss.
Soldotna had already clinched the top seed in the South Division in the upcoming Northern Lights Conference Championships, which start Thursday in Soldotna. Wasilla will be the No. 2 seed from the North.
Soldotna should open with Palmer in the first round, and Wasilla is expected to draw Kenai in the quarterfinals. Both head coaches said their teams are taking the tournament on a match at a time. But the bracket could set up an interesting Wasilla-Soldotna showdown in the semifinals.
Wasilla is the two-time defending NLC champion.
Wasilla 2, Kenai 0
WASILLA — Oleg Lozko and Ethan Keenan scored goals to lead Wasilla to a 2-0 win over Kenai at Wasilla High Friday.
Lozko, with an assist from Keenan, placed a ball in the upper right corner of the net to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead during the 30th minute. Later in the match, Lozko pushed a ball up field for Keenan, who scored on a breakaway.