The weather and the high school soccer action continued to heat up Thursday on the peninsula.
In a pair of games matching crosstown rivals on an afternoon that at least breached the 50s, the Soldotna girls defeated host Skyview 2-0 while the Skyview boys topped the Stars 4-0.
In the girls game, the Stars, led by the skill of Jennifer Senette, were able to possess the ball most of the game in improving to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in Region III Southern Division.
The six peninsula soccer teams make up the Southern Division. Each peninsula teams plays each other once, and the four best teams qualify for the Region III soccer tournament.
Last year, the Soldotna girls did not qualify for regions. With the victory Thursday, the Stars went a long way toward making amends for that.
"Our goal is to make up for last year and make it to regions," Senette said. "It was embarrassing not to make it to regions last year."
Seven minutes into the game, Senette was making sure the Stars would not be embarrassed again. She brought the ball down the side of the field and centered it to Erin Wolfe, who poked it in past Skyview goalie Morgan Lyons for a 1-0 lead.
"Before the game, the coaches were telling us that Skyview was going to come right at us and that we couldn't look past them," Senette said. "Getting that first quick goal was big because it gave us a lot of confidence."
After that, the Stars kept control of the ball but Skyview's defense did not allow golden scoring opportunities. Soldotna coach Katie Tongue gave credit to Senette and Wolfe for spearheading the ball-control effort. Tongue also said Katey Jones and Sam Penner did a good job battling up front.
But, for most of the game, Skyview's defense, despite losing sweeper Amber Zuck to a knee injury 20 minutes into the first half, was up to the task. The defense consisted of Jenna Standridge, Chelsea Holden and Lela Wiley, while Laura Smith came in for Zuck.
"We don't possess the ball well. We don't make more than two or three passes in a row," Skyview coach Tony Lewis said after his squad fell to 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the Southern Division. "That makes it hard to set up opportunities on offense."
Within the first minute of the second half, Soldotna cashed in on another one of those opportunities. Again, Senette put another nice cross in the center of the penalty area. This time, Sam Penner collected the ball and booted it in.
Marlena McCown collected the shutout for the Stars thanks to good defense from Catie Coursen, Erin Hartmann and Heather Sinclair.
The Panthers, a team that goes as far as 16 players deep, wore down the Stars to improve to 2-0-1 overall and 1-0 in the Southern Division.
"We're working really well together as a team," Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said. "We're running a lot of guys in and out of the game, and nobody's complaining about their playing time. Everybody just wants the team to do well."
The Panthers took the lead 16 minutes into the game. There was a battle for the ball in the penalty area, leaving Soldotna goalie Hunter Sirois on the ground. The ball was cleared out of the box, but Johan Granvik collected it and hit a nasty shot into the upper right-hand corner of the goal. Sirois was back on his feet at that point, but the shot left him no chance.
Just 11 minutes later, Sirois fouled Skyview's Mitchell Burdick in the penalty area. Trevor Barber converted the penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.
In the second half, Carpenter said Skyview started a little slow because it was trying to adjust to the wind. About 11 minutes into the half, Soldotna took advantage of that when Matt Vasilie crossed to a wide-open Johnny Mills just outside the goalie box. However, Skyview goalie Matt Stalnik made it across the mouth of his goal in time to save the header by Mills.
The incident, easily Soldotna's best scoring chance of the game against a Skyview defense led by Mike Sturm, woke the Panthers up. At 26 minutes into the second half, Granvik got the ball to Kyle Eshleman just outside the penalty area. Sirois saved the shot by Eshleman, but Matt Matarrese collected the rebound and plugged it into a wide-open net.
Near the end of the game, Carpenter put in some freshmen to get them a taste of varsity action. One of those freshmen got more than that. Junior Chatchay Apaipak found freshman Elliott Gauthier with a nice pass in the penalty area, and Gauthier converted Skyview's fourth goal of the game. Carpenter said it was a good day for the Gauthiers, as he also said Jacob Gauthier did a good job of hustling in the midfield.
On the Soldotna side, coach Jeff Siemers said his team played better than it did Tuesday, when the Stars defeated Seward.
"We stepped up to the level of competition," Siemers said. "After this game, I find myself thinking that we can be competitive this year."
Siemers said the defense, particularly Dan Ghormley, did a good job of thwarting Skyview's numerous runs at the goal. The Stars drop to 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the Southern Division.
The host Bulldogs improved to 2-1-2 overall by putting 40 shots on goal.
In the first 15 seconds of the game, Robert Doty got the ball rolling when he scored off an assist by Joey Wicker.
In the first five minutes of the second half, Kevin Gerke scored to make it 2-0. Doty finished off the scoring when he converted a header off a pass from Jeremiah Taylor.
Josh Winters collected the shutout, but thanks to defenders Nathan Smith, John Rooper and Brett Allemann, Winters only had to make three saves to get that shutout.
The host Bulldogs improved to 2-2 with the victory.
Nikiski coach Richard Kelso said the game showed his young team has a lot of promise. Freshmen accounted for some of the scoring. Kelso also was pleased with the play of Hisa Miyara, Amber Delago and Rachel Gerke.
"It's certainly the strongest squad we've had in years in terms of depth," Kelso said. "We've only got two seniors on the team, so our potential is pretty encouraging."
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