A Palmer goal in the closing seconds of a Region III match spoiled what was otherwise a perfect day for the Soldotna High School soccer team.
The Moose scored as time expired to escape with a 2-2 draw in Soldotna Saturday.
The Soldotna boys were able to strike first against the Moose, but Palmer answered with three straight goals for a 3-1 victory.
"If we could have held out a couple seconds longer, that would have made the day," said Soldotna's Jennifer Senette. "It's pretty good when you can stay with a Valley team. That's a good sign."
Indeed, the Stars were able to dictate play for long stretches of time, and with a goal 10 minutes into the match, ended the Moose's season-long run of shutout play.
Senette netted the Stars' first goal, knocking a bouncing ball past the Palmer keeper. Erin Hartmann assisted on the play.
The Stars were unable to convert a penalty kick later in the first half, but Soldotna's defensive unit and goalkeeper Marlena McCown kept the Moose off the board through the first half.
Soldotna made it 2-0 18 minutes into the second half when Erin Wolfe beat a pair of Palmer defenders in the midfield and fed the ball to Senette. Senette then played a pass through the Palmer defense for Sam Penner. Palmer keeper Tara Harrington stuffed Penner's initial offering, but Penner was able to get a foot on the rebound and poke the ball home.
Palmer halved the deficit eight minutes later when a shot by Rachel Kloster took a funky bounce over McCown and into the net. Joann Spanagel assisted on the play.
Felicia Sandvik then netted the equalizer as time expired, providing the payoff for the pressure the Moose applied in the closing minutes of the match.
"It was a dogfight, and that's the way it should be all the time," said Palmer coach Brian Fish. "I've always thought Soldotna has been the best team on the peninsula. They've always improved from year to year.
"We were able to put a lot of pressure on in the last 20 minutes, and finally something worked out for us at the end."
Soldotna coach Katie Tongue praised the effort from her team from back to front as the defensive unit of Heather Sinclair, Abby Kiffmeyer, Ricki Jackson, Hartmann and Catie Coursen gave Palmer very little space to operate while outside midfielders Katey Jones, Annie Penner and Stacey Foster gave Senette and Wolfe plenty of help.
"They're all passing the ball really well," Tongue said. "Jen and Erin are always strong, but they're getting a lot of support."
The Moose are 2-0-1 overall while the Stars are now 3-1-1 after defeating Houston Friday.
Soldotna will host Nikiski Tuesday.
Palmer boys 3, Soldotna 1
The Stars were able to take advantage of a momentary lapse by the Palmer defense early in the match, but the Moose were able to rally for the win.
Soldotna was coming off a 5-0 win over Houston Friday in which Johnny Mills netted a pair of goals and Hunter Sirois and Mike Vasilie combined in goal for the shutout.
Palmer led 2-1 after 40 minutes of play Saturday, but Moose coach Don Berberich was frustrated with the way game had been officiated in the first half. After a conference with the referee at midfield, Berberich then approached the Soldotna huddle and said he would pull his team off the field if the overly aggressive play continued.
Soldotna did draw a pair of yellow cards in the first half, one for not yielding the required 10 yards on a Palmer free kick, and one for a foul tackle.
"We're a physical team, but he lets it cross the line to where I'm worried there's going to be an injury," Berberich said, adding that the referee in question also had officiated some games in the Valley.
Berberich said he was "pretty sure" that FIFA, soccer's international governing body, wants referees to keep the game under control to minimize the risk of severe injury to competitors on the field.
Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers did tell his team to focus on playing soccer in the second half, though he said his squad showed much better intensity in the opening half.
"It was definitely a physical game," Siemers said. "We just need to improve our scoring opportunities and worry about putting the ball in the goal."
The Stars did take advantage of an early opportunity when Peter Kim took a free kick from just outside the penalty area on the left wing. Kim's cross found a pair of Soldotna Stars unmarked at the far post, and Chris Houglum touched home the goal.
Palmer equalized in the 25th minute on a penalty kick by Jared Berberich after Mark Psenak was tripped up in the penalty area.
Berberich put the Moose on top about eight minutes later, ripping a shot from 30 yards out to beat Soldotna keeper Hunter Sirois. Ben Beetch assisted on the play.
The Stars had a golden opportunity to tie it up with a minute to go in the half, but couldn't convert a penalty kick.
Soldotna had a couple of good scoring chances as players pushed forward late in the second half, but Palmer put the game away with a goal with three minutes left in the match by Steel Tubbs, assisted by Devon Conroy.
Don Berberich said he thought play settled down in the second half, though the Moose picked up a pair of yellow cards for hard tackles.
Soldotna falls to 2-3 overall, while the Moose are 2-1.
Skyview girls 5, Houston 0
The Panthers scored early and often to pick up their second win of the season, improving to 2-3 overall.
Ginny Berg tallied the first two Panthers goals in the first three minutes of play. Her first score was assisted by Amber Kunz, while her second was unassisted.
"When we went up 2-0, our intensity dropped off a little bit, but that's what we wanted to do get a couple in early," said Skyview coach Tony Lewis.
Alecia Wood made it 3-0 in the 30th minute, assisted by Ashley Waldrip, and Amanda Skinner scored the Panthers' fourth goal, assisted by Christey Fuhrmann, in the 40th minute of play.
Jamie Miller finished off the scoring 11 minutes into the second half. Morgan Lyons only needed to make a couple of saves to record the shutout.
"We pretty much dominated the midfield. They weren't able to get too many opportunities," Lewis said.
Skyview, 2-3 overall, will visit Kenai Tuesday.
Skyview boys 5, Houston 1
Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said that after a game at Houston last week got chippy, both teams sat down with each other before Saturday's match to "meet each other and work out their issues before the game."
"It was the cleanest soccer game I've seen," Carpenter said. "Both teams should be complimented for their style of play. They played a nice, clean game."
The Panthers led 2-0 at the half. Trevor Barber scored the first goal of the game, assisted by Jacob Gauthier at the 10-minute mark. Gabe Fellman made it 2-0 10 minutes later when his attempted cross hooked into the Houston net.
Barber netted his second goal of the game 10 minutes into the second half, jumping on the rebound of a laser shot from midfield by Matt Matarrese that bounced off the crossbar.
Houston scored to narrow the deficit to 3-1, but Gauthier answered with an unassisted goal 24 minutes into the second half.
Skyview freshman Tony Gibson rounded out the scoring, converting a penalty kick late in the match.
The Panthers, 4-0-1, will play at Kenai Tuesday.
Homer girls 1, Nikiski 0
The Mariners cracked the Bulldogs defense seven minutes into the second half to pick up a Region III-Southern Division victory in Homer.
Aleta Phelps scored for the Mariners, assisted by Chantrelle Cousins. Holly McCune recorded the shutout for Homer.
"We owned the first half, they owned the second half," said Nikiski coach Richard Kelso.
Kelso said his squad had a few good chances, but Homer's goal early in the second half gave the Mariners more confidence to push forward.
Kelso said he was very pleased with the play of freshman goalkeeper Sarah Herrin.
"She's done well for us. She's getting more and more confidence," Kelso said.
Homer boys 2, Nikiski 1
The Mariners netted a pair of second-half goals, coming from behind to beat Nikiski in a Region III-Southern Division contest Saturday in Homer.
Jeremiah Taylor gave Nikiski the early edge, scoring midway through the first half.
Homer's Llosh Winne netted the equalizer, unassisted, three minutes into the second half, though, and Justin Adams put Homer ahead at the 24-minute mark of the second half, assisted by Dylan Toole.
Taber Webb picked up the win in the Homer goal.
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