The Soldotna boys soccer team has quite the task ahead of them this weekend at the ASAA state soccer tournament at the Chugiak and Eagle River high school fields.
The team hasn’t been to state since 2009, which was a team that sported an entirely different roster.
For coach Jeff Siemers, it surely is a thrill, but he’s managed to stay level-headed.
“Having a dead .500 record for the season, we’re fortunate to be playing the state tournament, so hopefully we show up and play well,” Siemers said on Wednesday. “I think as far as being able put together a strong showing at the end of the season, you don’t want to go up there and go two games and out. But being able to be there and represent the Peninsula is a good thing too.”
The Stars open their tournament today with a 3:45 p.m. game against defending state champs Dimond, a notorious powerhouse school. The difference between this year and four years ago? The bracket was determined by a blind draw. That means that not only will SoHi have to contend with the Lynx, but they will also face either South or Wasilla on Friday.
“With having Dimond and South on our side, they’re both strong teams from Anchorage, and with Wasilla there, I know we can get up to play those guys,” Siemers said. “We’ll just have to see how the bracket shakes out. It’s pretty evenly distributed, even if we were going to be one of the lower seeds, we knew we’d have to play the toughest teams.”
Perhaps the reason for Siemers’ confidence is the fact that even though the Stars came out of last week’s Northern Lights Conference tournament with third place and a 6-6-1 overall season record, they have the tools to upset a team or two.
Seniors Cory Carver and Cameron Grothe bring experience and speed, two qualities that could help decide the fate of the team this postseason.
“We’re playing against speed, really, we’re trying to figure out how to work the ball out of difficult situations and how to keep possession for as long as we can,” Siemers said. “Try to create some opportunities and not get too aggressive, but to really possess.
“It would be ideal to dictate the speed of the game. They’re a faster team but we want to be able to counter them as best as we can, and keep the unforced errors down and create good quality opportunities.”
SoHi has not played Dimond this season yet, so it remains an unknown over which squad holds the advantage, but since Dimond has the dominant history behind it, Siemers is more than willing to give them the title of favorite, in hopes of keeping his team focused and determined.
“It’s showing up well, and we’re really intent on finishing up a good season on a high note,” he said. “We’re bringing in good momentum from the region tournament, and we really have the capacity to do it.”
Another factor, along with Carver and Grothe, will be SoHi goaltender Kayne North, who has been working wonders for the Stars in recent weeks. Last week, in the NLC third-place game against Homer, North faced 18 shots on goal, and 12 of those came in the second half. North stopped every one for the shutout victory.