Local high school soccer squads enjoyed a successful opening day Thursday at the Northern Lights Conference tournament at Colony High School, getting five of six boys and girls teams to the semifinals.
In boys action, Kenai Central, Soldotna and Homer all won quarterfinal matchups to move on to the semis. The Kenai boys drubbed Palmer 6-1 and the SoHi boys beat Grace Christian 4-1 to set up a semifinal matchup today at 6 p.m. The Kardinals won both regular-season meetings with the Stars by a 4-1 score.
Homer escaped with a 1-0 win over Wasilla on Thursday to set up a 1 p.m. semifinal matchup today with Colony, 8-0 winners over Kodiak.
In the girls tournament, both Soldotna and Kenai won close games to make it to the region semis, while the Homer girls fell to Wasilla 4-1, ending their season on the spot. Kenai beat Grace Christian 1-0 to set up a semifinal meeting with Colony today at 3 p.m., while Soldotna toppled Houston 2-0 to advance to an 11 a.m. meeting today against Wasilla.
Kenai boys 6, Palmer 1
Zack Tuttle fueled the No. 1 seeded Kenai boys to a first-day win with a hat trick, scoring twice in the first half and finishing the feat with about 10 minutes left in the game.
Kenai head coach Joel Reemtsma wasn’t happy about allowing the Moose a goal in the first half, which made it 2-1 at the time, but said a fast start helped ice the game early.
“We weren’t thrilled we gave up a goal, but Palmer didn’t have too many chances,” Reemtsma said. “We were happy, but we know it’s going to get harder from here on out, so we need to aim for perfection.”
Kenai scored just 45 seconds in on a cross from Damien Redder to Chase Gillies, then went up 2-0 on Tuttle’s first goal.
Palmer received a free kick in the 20th minute in Kenai territory, which the Moose converted to cut the lead in half, but Tuttle answered for Kenai before halftime to forge a 3-1 advantage.
In the second half, a shove to midfielder Luke Beiser in the Palmer box in the second half created a penalty kick opportunity for Kenai, which senior defender Max Dye scored on, and Redder added a goal of his own on a free kick to push the lead to 5-1. Tuttle capped the scoring with his third goal of the game in the waning minutes.
Senior Tristan Landry manned the net for the Kardinals.
With a 6 p.m. semifinal matchup with Soldotna awaiting them, Reemtsma said he is expecting another tough rivalry game.
“We anticipate a hard-fought, scrappy game, it may not be pretty at all times, but it’s going to take some pretty finishing to win,” he said.
Soldotna girls 2, Houston 0
A conservative formation helped the Hawks, No. 4 from the north, keep the score down against the Stars, No. 1 from the south. But the plan did not push Houston into the second round.
Soldotna struck first in stoppage time in the first half when Abi Tuttle scored on assists from Cameron Blackwell and Elena Bramante. Then, midway through the second half, Meijan Leaf put away a corner kick from Tuttle.
The Stars had defeated Houston 7-0 in the regular season last week.
“It was a tale of two different games,” Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said. “The first time we played Houston, they played their regular formation. Today, they came out and packed the box with all but one or two players.
“It took us awhile to realize give-and-goes were not the best, and we just had to start shooting the ball.”
Love said Ella Stenga had the shutout, having to make just one official save.
The Stars played Wasilla, No. 2 from the north, once this season and lost 7-0.
“We played them tough in the first half,” Love said. “We have to stay upbeat and positive when they do score. We can’t get down.
“As long as we stay positive, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Wasilla girls 4, Homer 1
The Warriors, No. 2 from the north, toppled Homer, No. 3 from the south.
Wasilla had just defeated Homer 4-0 in the regular season last week and nearly repeated the trick. The difference this time was a second-half goal from Raisa Basargin.
Homer boys 1, Wasilla 0
A second-half penalty kick from Simon Dye proved to be the difference for the Mariners, No. 2 from the south.
Wasilla, No. 3 from the north, had lost 6-1 to Homer on Saturday in the regular season, but Mariners coach Warren Waldorf said Thursday was a different game.
“They moved some people around and they came out and played hard,” Waldorf said. “It was pretty physical. They didn’t create many chances, and we didn’t, either.”
The coach said the PK was given due to a hand ball. Waldorf said he didn’t have a good view of the play, but said getting a hand ball like that in the box is always a fortunate way to score the game’s lone goal.
Kenzington Cortez had the shutout for Homer.
“He played great,” Waldorf said. “They all played above themselves today. It was a tough game.”
Waldorf said Charles Rohr took a should to the head early, but had no concussion symptoms and was able to continue with his great play at midfield. The coach also commended Oliver Beck’s work in the midfield, and Daniel Reutov’s work at forward.
Waldorf said Friday’s semifinals was not on his mind immediately following the game.
“We’re at the store picking up bags of ice to throw in the bathtub so the kids can take a cold bath,” Waldorf said.
Soldotna boys 4, Grace 1
The Stars, No. 3 from the south, got past the Grizzlies, No. 2 from the north.
SoHi coach Darryl Byerley was happy after topping improving on the Stars’ 5-4 victory over Grace on Saturday.
“It’s always important to get wins in these one and dones,” Byerley said. “We came through healthy with no red cards assigned.
“The maturity is coming along. This is what we’ve been looking for all year.”
Brayden VanMeter started the scoring 10 minutes in on an assist from Luke Trammell. Grace then tied the game in the 17th minute on a free kick.
But Soldotna goalie Chase Miller was able to keep a clean sheet the rest of the match and the Stars responded by continually increasing the lead.
In the 31st minute, Eli Sheridan scored on an assist from Alex Montague. In the 33rd, Trammell scored, assisted by Sheridan.
Sheridan then punctuated the victory with an unassisted goal in the 77th minute. Byerley said injured player Levi Rosin described the goal as a “ripper, bar-down, top-cheddar goal.”
Kenai girls 1, Grace 0
The Kardinals, the No. 2 seed from the south, avenged a regular-season loss to the Grizzlies, No. 3 from the north.
Just last week, Grace scored a late goal to top the Kardinals 2-1. But just three minutes before the half, Lara Creighton scored the lone goal for Kenai on a corner kick from Mikaela Pitsch.
Goalie Kailey Hamilton, as well as defenders Brenna Eubank, Rebecca Miller, Alissa Maw and Pitsch then made the lead stand up. Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said the Grizzlies pressed hard in the final five minutes for the equalizer, but the defense kept Grace from any golden chances on goal.
In the first game against Grace, Verkuilen said coming into the tournament that midfielder Cassi Holmes had stood out. The coach said Holmes played great again, but this time everybody backed her up.
“We played better as a team for the whole thing,” Verkuilen said. “That’s the thing I’m most proud of. Everyone came off the field tired. I felt like everybody contributed.”
The Kardinals now face the Knights, No. 1 from the north. Colony defeated Kenai 3-0 earlier this season, but Verkuilen said the Kardinals did not have a lot of field time at that point.
“We’ve had a little chance to catch up, but obviously they’re good and it will be a big challenge,” Verkuilen said.