The Kenai Central girls soccer team missed out on an opportunity to qualify for the state tournament Friday at the Kenai Soccer Complex, dropping their semifinal game 2-0 against Colony in the Northern Lights Conference tournament.
However, not all is lost, because the Kards still have a shot at a state berth on Saturday when they will battle Grace Christian in the tournament's third-place game at 10 a.m.
The score on Friday wasn't exactly indicative of how close the game was, as Kenai had three shots on goal in the first half, compared to the Knights' five shots.
"What's hard is I felt that we outplayed them all around, moving the ball, getting shots and we had an open-goal miss," said Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen. "There could've been two goals there for us but that's soccer, finishing is important. I was just proud of how they controlled the ball and held possession and Colony's a physical team and we were able to stay aggressive."
Colony managed to convert on a corner kick in the 28th minute, and it stayed that way until halftime.
Things picked up in the second half for Kenai, but an ill-timed handball occurred in Kenai's penalty box in the 52nd minute, which led to a penalty kick for Colony.
Rebecca Mackey took the shot for the Knights, and converted when Kenai goalkeeper Sydney Taylor wasn't able to clear the ball fast enough.
Kenai had four chances to score on corner kicks, better than Colony's three.
For now, the Kards will have to wait an extra day to see if they can return to the state tournament a year removed from a sixth-place state finish.
"Grace is really tough, we're pretty equal with them," Verkuilen said. "That's been a little bit of our hardship this year, just finishing shots.
"We generally get more shots on teams, because we have some of that athleticism, but it's getting that early shot, that early goal that's important."
Colony will face Soldotna in a battle of the two top-seeded teams in Saturday's Northern Lights championship match, which begins at 2 p.m.
Colony boys 4, Homer 0
The Knights scored three goals in a 10-minute span in the second half to defeat the Mariners and punch their ticket to the state tournament.
Homer will have to earn their way into the state tournament by defeating Soldotna at noon on Saturday.
In Friday's game, the game went from being a thriller to being over rather quickly.
"I have no idea what happened," said Homer coach Warren Waldorf. "Obviously we were up against adversity today, this is one of the best teams in the state.
"We held on for 39 minutes, which was a good show on our part, and then they got one in. They were a little flat in the first half, and then they came out and put it together for a few minutes in the second half, and at that point the contest was over and everybody relaxed. That was the story for the next 30 minutes."
Colony scored in with a minute left in the first half when Kyle Bolam caught a rebound off of Homer goalie Grant Arseneau and drilled it home to put the Knights up first. Up to that point, Colony led in shots on goal with 11, compared to seven for Homer.
Starting two minutes into the second half, Colony began finding holes in the Homer defense and got goals from Chris Olsen in the 42nd minute, Harrison Menard in the 47th and Bolam got his second goal in the 51st.
"We talked about a few adjustments we had to make in the second half, they were doing a great job with really packing in their defense," Johnson said. "We were playing into their hands by serving long balls into their box instead of keeping it on the ground and trying to pass through them and creating open shooting lanes. That's what really helped us."
Colony has lost in the semifinal round the last two seasons, and coach Johnson was pleased to have rid themselves of that trend.
"The feelings are great, it's great to qualify and punch that ticket to the state tournament," Johnson said. "We've had to battle our way through the third-place game to get to state, so it's nice to have a chance to get back and hopefully get another region title."
After finishing an impressive fourth at last year's state tournament, Homer will look to return for a second straight year.
"We're trying to get through without injuries, and they're trying to do the same," Waldorf said. "The whole game was over in 10 minutes."
Waldorf also mentioned that key player Drew Brown will be back for Saturday's game. Brown had been injured on Thursday against Grace Christian, and Waldorf was concerned that he had suffered a dislocated shoulder or broken collarbone.
The boys conference championship game will be played at 4 p.m. between Northern division teams Wasilla and Colony.