An up-and-coming Wasilla girls team looking to prove itself by knocking off undefeated Soldotna. A Stars boys team seeking revenge for a shootout loss to the Warriors at state last year that ended SoHi’s season.
Friday night’s Northern Lights Conference action at Soldotna had the potential for plenty of drama, but it never materialized as the SoHi girls won 4-0 and the Wasilla boys triumphed 5-2.
In the girls game, the Stars moved to 7-0 while the Warriors dropped to 9-2.
“They are very strong,” Wasilla coach Patrick O’Neill said of the Stars. “We knew that coming in.
“They had some lopsided scores and so did we. We knew this would be a measuring stick.”
Early in the game, the Warriors measured up just fine as the referee sought to rein in physical play.
In the 21st minute, Merit Paramo was booked with a yellow card, and that settled down the physical play on both sides.
The Stars were given a free kick just outside of the box, and Kylee Wolfe hammered it home in the 22nd minute for a 1-0 lead.
After that, Soldotna gradually began to take control, even though Wasilla had the advantage of the wind.
In the 37th minute, the Stars went up 2-0 when Taryn McCubbins headed in a corner kick from Julie Litchfield.
SoHi then got the wind in the second half and did most of the attacking. Each team took three goal kicks in the first half, but the second half saw Wasilla take 12 goal kicks and Soldotna take none.
Unofficially, Wasilla had two shots on goal in the first half and none in the second half, while SoHi had six in the first and seven in the second. Katelynn Kerkvliet had the shutout in net.
“We subbed a little more than they did, so maybe we had fresher players,” Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said. “Maybe they also didn’t use the wind to their advantage like we did.”
In the 48th minute, Kelci Benson found Litchfield, who passed to Olivia Conradi in the middle for a goal.
Just five minutes later, Kylee Wolfe played a cross to Conradi, who touched it to Alyssa Wolfe for a goal.
“No. 18 was strong attacking with the ball all game,” O’Neill said of Kylee Wolfe.
Love also was happy with how strong Litchfield was on the ball.
“It was never quite what we wanted to see, but we did play more feet to feet as the game went on,” Love said. “If we would have done that sooner, I think the game would have been a little more calm.”
O’Neill would like to play the Stars in the title game of the NLC tournament, but he knows Wasilla faces a lot of tough competition to get there.
“We have to meet their intensity and physical play,” O’Neill said of the key to battling Soldotna. “We have one senior, so this was a good eye-opener as to what it will take to play at this level.”
Wasilla boys 5, Soldotna 2
Compared to some of the close thrillers these two programs have authored in the past, everything was rather serene as the sun blazed away on a day in early May.
“I think the sun had a good game,” Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said after falling to 3-3-1. “It may have slowed everybody down.”
The game featured a titanic struggle in the midfield, but neither side was able to turn the tables enough to consistently attack.
Unofficially, both teams had six cracks on net. SoHi took two corners, while Wasilla had one. The goal kicks were seven for Soldotna and four for Wasilla.
So how were the Warriors able to suck most of the drama out of this affair?
“I felt like when our team created opportunities, they were able to take advantage of them,” Wasilla coach Blake Livingston said after improving to 6-4-1. “Soldotna is pretty strong on the back line. They did a good job.”
The scoring touch and savvy of senior strikers Grig Lozko and Ethan Keenan allowed Wasilla to milk the most out of each foray into the box.
In the 12th minute, Keenan found Lozko in the box, and he pulled a nice shot to the far post for a 1-0 lead.
Just one minute later, RJ Kinmon played a cross to Lozko, and he was sure with his heading finish for a 2-0 lead. Just one minute later, Lozko barely missed three goals in three minutes when he pulled a shot wide.
“The intensity was not as high as it should have been,” Siemers said. “It was a little bit of a slow game.
“They capitalized on the opportunities when they had them.”
Just six minutes before half, the Warriors made it 3-0 when Alex Fonov headed in a ball that Lozko had flicked over keeper Daniel McElroy.
In the 41st minute, Keenan banged in his own rebound before Soldotna started to fight back.
In the 44th minute, Ryan Toney won a scrum in the box for a goal.
In the 50th minute, Thomas Flores drove a free kick from just outside the box at goalie Kevin O’Loughlin. Tyler Fenton, who had just returned to the game after struggling with a back injury, picked up the rebound for a 4-2 game.
“Soldotna is a resilient squad,” Livingston said. “You have to give them credit. They didn’t hang their heads.”
But neither did the Warriors.
Just three minutes later, in the 53rd minute, Keenan was fouled in the box. O’Loughlin ran the length of the field to convert the PK and give the Warriors all the breathing room they would need.
Livingston gave credit to Stone Krueger and Cash McGregor for solid play in the midfield.
Siemers said McElroy was solid in net.
“The goals came because of defensive breakdowns,” he said. “There was not anything he could have done.”
Soldotna girls 13, Seward 0
The Stars moved to 8-0 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Division with a victory over the visiting Seahawks.
Kylee Wolfe, Reagan Schoessler, Katelynn Kerkvliet and Brianna Bennett had two goals apiece. Kelci Benson, Olivia Conradi, Skylar Shaw, Julie Litchfield and Makenna Rosin added tallies.
Benson and Kerkvliet shared the shutout.
Love said the game was a good way to end four straight days of games.
“Seward was extremely positive,” Love said. “I think one of our girls coming off said, ‘I’m not sure why they are so excited. They’re having a good time. They’re just happy to be out there.’”
Soldotna boys 8, Seward 0
The host Stars took a 7-0 lead in the first half en route to moving to 4-3-1 overall and 1-1 in the Southern Division.
Ty Fenton and Ryan Toney each had two goals, while Charalambos Asimakopoulos, Kyle North, Raphael Ross and Keely Abendroth added tallies.
Daniel McElroy and North combined for the shutout in net.
“It was a good game to begin to get things organized for next week,” Siemers said.
The Soldotna boys play host to Nikiski on Monday at 5 p.m.