The Soldotna and Skyview high school boys soccer teams put on quite a show Saturday in a Region III Southern Division match at Soldotna.
"It was nice to see a game played like that," Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said after his Panthers defeated the Stars 2-1 in a match that featured pretty passing and gorgeous goals over an intense 80 minutes.
The Soldotna and Skyview girls also played a tight match. After the Stars scored the only goal of the match just three minutes in, both sides settled into a midfield battle, with neither team gaining a huge advantage.
The Skyview boys opened their match by moving the ball from touchline to touchline and pushing forward, but it was the Stars that scored first when Johnny Mills converted a penalty kick after a teammate was taken down in the 18-yard box 11 minutes into the match.
The Panthers continued to work the ball forward through their midfield and created several good opportunities Sebastien Spicher rocketed a shot off the post midway through the half but it was a fortunate bounce that led to the tying goal.
Kyle Eshleman netted the equalizer after a ricochet off a Soldotna defender bounced his way. Eshleman split through the Stars back line and found the lower right corner of the net with a shot off the outside of his right foot.
The Panthers made it 2-1 just five minutes before the half when Jacob Gauthier hammered home a nice hard cross from Jason Smith.
"We played real patient, which is nice, and we seem to be real organized," Carpenter said.
Indeed, Spicher, Trevor Barber, Chatchay Apaipak and Sean Mallette kept the Panthers building forward while Gabe Fellman held things together defensively from his sweeper position.
The Stars were able to counter quickly on several occasions, particularly late in the second half while looking for the equalizer. Soldotna was able to get off several good shots, but couldn't find a way to beat Skyview keeper Matt Stalnick a second time.
"I thought that both teams played very well," said Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers. "We had a lot of good play from our midfield. Our defense played well and Hunter (Sirois) looked good in goal."
Carpenter said Fellman had a big weekend at sweeper for the Panthers in Friday's 3-0 win at home over Homer, he cleared a ball off the goal line to keep his squad on top.
In Friday's match, Eshleman scored a pair of goals. His first came two minutes into the second half with a chip shot. He scored on a header 12 minutes later after a free kick taken by Barber was headed across the box by Apaipak.
Elliott Gauthier finished off the scoring for the Panthers with 12 minutes left in the match. The Mariners earned a corner kick and sent their goalkeeper forward on the play. Mallette was able to clear the corner kick to Apaipak, though, who played it forward to Gauthier. Gauthier took his shot on a wide open net from near midfield.
The Panthers improve to 6-1 overall and have a busy week ahead with Ketchikan visiting Wednesday, Wasilla Friday and Houston Saturday.
The Stars posted their first victory of the season with a 3-2 decision over Seward Friday. Soldotna was trailing 2-1 late in the match before Garrett Gardner and Matt Vasilie scored in the closing minutes to steal a win.
Soldotna, 1-4-2 overall, will host Kenai Thursday.
In the girls game Saturday, Soldotna's Stacey Foster scored in the opening minutes, assisted by Katey Jones, when the Panthers were unable to clear the ball out of their goal area.
After withstanding another 10 minutes of pressure from the Stars, the Panthers were able to hold their own defensively. When the Stars were able to put a shot on goal, keeper Jenny Andrus was always well-positioned to make the save.
The Soldotna defense also proved hard to beat, though, and Stars keeper Marlana McCown made just a handful of saves for the shutout.
"When we put a few passes together we could get some offense going, but just kicking the ball wasn't working their defense is pretty good," said Skyview midfielder Ginny Berg. "... I thought we did pretty well on defense, but a couple of times, we couldn't get it out of the box and they capitalized."
Soldotna's Annie Penner said her squad was able to move the ball well at times, but still has trouble once it gets near the goal.
"We controlled the ball real well but just didn't penetrate," Penner said.
The Stars are 4-2-1 overall and will host Kenai Thursday. Soldotna kicked the weekend off with a 5-1 win over Seward. Foster started the scoring for the Stars, assisted by Heather Sinclair.
Christa Kennedy netted a pair of goals for the Stars, with Tory Coursen assisting on her first and Lauren Senette setting up her second.
Coursen then set up Eve Green for a score, and McKenna Roesch rounded out the scoring on a play set up by Green and McCown.
Skyview is 1-4-1 overall and will face Ketchikan Wednesday.
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