A pair of late goals gave the Soldotna girls a win and the Soldotna boys a tie Tuesday in Region III Southern Division games against visiting Nikiski.
In the girls game, Sam Penner scored on an assist from Katey Jones with one minute to play as the Stars came away with a 1-0 victory.
In the boys game, Peter Kim scored with six minutes to play to earn the Stars a 2-2 tie.
Last season, the Soldotna girls developed a reputation for dominating play, yet being unable to finish. This led to some frustrating losses.
That was almost the case Tuesday. In the first half, Soldotna faced the wind and was able to get few solid chances on goal. Meanwhile, SoHi goalie Marlena McCown made six saves to keep the score at 0-0.
In the second half, the Stars used the wind to dominate play. Soldotna took 10 corner kicks and made Nikiski take 14 goal kicks. That, and Nikiski goalie Sarah Herrin had to make five saves.
Meanwhile, in the second half McCown only touched the ball once.
But Nikiski was able to stay in the match using good defense. In particular, Rachel Gerke was assigned to match Soldotna's Jennifer Senette step for step.
"It's the first time I've assigned a player to focus specifically on a player," Nikiski coach Richard Kelso said. "Senette is just so good. We have respect for good players."
The Stars did not find a big crack in Nikiski's defensive strategy until a minute remained. A ball with a weird spin on it bounced to Jones. Jones collected it, and split the defense with a pass to Penner. Penner dribbled in and beat Herrin with a shot on the ground.
"I thought we were going to tie," Penner said. "We started slow, and we were really struggling at the end trying to get a goal."
Saturday, Palmer scored a goal in the last minute against SoHi to earn a 2-2 tie. Instead of getting frustrated by that result, the Stars learned from it.
"One of the things that Palmer taught us is that you can still dig it out in the last minute," Soldotna coach Katie Tongue said. "And that's what we did. We had to dig deep for that last goal."
The win puts Soldotna in the driver's seat for a berth to the region tournament -- a berth the Stars did not earn last year. Soldotna is now 4-1-1 overall and 3-0 in the Region III Southern Division.
The Bulldogs are now 2-4 overall and 0-2 in the Region III Southern Division.
Soldotna boys 2, Nikiski boys 2
With 10 minutes to play, Nikiski's Joey Wicker broke a 1-1 tie and appeared to give the Bulldogs the upper hand. But just four minutes later, Kim answered for the draw.
While the goals by Wicker and Kim were both gems, the first half featured a pair of odd goals.
With three minutes left in the first half, Nikiski defender Brett Allemann controlled the ball near midfield and booted the ball toward the goal, intending for it to be a pass.
The ball took a ride on the wind flowing toward Soldotna's net, though, and sailed over Soldotna keeper Hunter Sirois into the net.
The play was so odd that Allemann threw his arms up not in a celebrating manner, but a questioning one.
In the final minute of the half, the Stars equalized with a similarly strange goal. Johnny Mills fired a free kick on Nikiski goalie Josh Winters.
Winters dropped the ball at his side, and Brennan Jackson rushed to challenge for the loose ball. Winters and Jackson went down to the ground, and somehow the ball squirted into the goal.
"The goals in the first half were both fluke goals," Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said. "The goals in the second half were both good goals, though.
"I wasn't overly happy with the way we played, but a tie does help us."
Wicker almost robbed the Stars of that tie with his hustle. Jeremiah Taylor was carrying the ball down the right side of the field in a 3-on-3 situation.
However, Wicker ran all the way up from his center midfielder spot to give the Bulldogs a 4-on-3. Taylor hit him in the center of the penalty area, and he had all day to line up a shot to beat Sirois.
"Overall, our goalie had a good game," Siemers said. "He saved us a couple of times. There was nothing he could do about that one."
Kim came back to earn the draw when he drilled a shot home from the top of the penalty area.
"We still didn't finish like we should," Nikiski coach Jim Coburn said. "We still have things to work on."
The Bulldogs are now 0-1-1 in the Region III Southern Division and 2-3-2 overall. Soldotna is 1-1-1 and 2-3-1.
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