WASILLA — After playing in a tight match against Wasilla, a 1-0 win over the Warriors, late in the regular season, Kenai Central expected Friday’s rematch to come down to bounces.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Kenai capitalized on a pair of Wasilla turnovers and earned a 2-1 win over the Warriors during the Northern Lights Conference semifinals at Wasilla High’s Veterans Memorial Field.
“Wasilla’s a great squad with incredible talent. It was going to be one of those games where something had to happen. And it did,” longtime Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen said after the match.
Abi Tuttle scored during the 12th minute and Cori Holmes found the back of the net during the 65th minute to help the Kardinals win the match, move into the NLC championship game and earn their first trip to the state tournament since 2012.
Verkuilen said overall team play is what stood out the most.
“I’m really proud of them for sticking together, and be willing to do whatever was needed whenever,” Verkuilen said. “A lot of kids played some unique positions. The sun was obviously a drainer. We knew if we trusted each other, kept fresh legs, we knew as a team, we could get those opportunities, those chances to do what we did.”
Wasilla head coach Patrick O’Neill said he also expected a close, tough contest.
“We made two mistakes, and they capitalized on both of them,” O’Neill said.
Alexa Starr scored Wasilla’s lone goal of the contest, ripping a shot high into the net during the 38th minute.
O’Neill said, considering the contrasting styles of play between the two teams, he’s proud of the way the Warriors continued to try to work within their system.
“We stuck to our guns. I’d rather lose playing the style we do, making an effort, attacking and playing as a team,” O’Neill said.
Wasilla still has an opportunity to earn its first state tournament berth since 2011. A win over Homer Saturday in the third-place match would send the Warriors to state.
Soldotna 8, Homer 0
WASILLA — Kylee Wolfe scored four goals to lead Soldotna to an 8-0 rout of Homer on Friday afternoon during the NLC semifinals at Wasilla High.
With the win, Soldotna will face rival Kenai in the NLC title game Saturday at 2 p.m.