It took the Soldotna High School boys soccer team more than an hour, but the Stars finally capitalized on their man advantage late in the second half en route to a 1-0 victory over visiting Region III foe Colony Friday.
The Soldotna girls also played well against the Knights but came up short, falling 3-1.
"Hopefully this will build some momentum for closing out the regular season with some wins," Soldotna boys coach Jeff Siemers said. "It's definitely a game I've been waiting to see as far as going to the ball and playing the way we need to."
The Knights found themselves a man down just three minutes into the match when goalkeeper Jacob Williams was issued a red card for handling the ball outside the penalty area. Williams had come charging off his line to thwart a Soldotna breakaway, and intentionally picking up the ball drew the harsh penalty because it had been clear scoring opportunity for the Stars.
Despite losing the man, the Knights controlled play through the first half, but their shots strayed wide and high of the Soldotna goal. Soldotna goalkeeper Hunter Sirois was well-positioned to handle anything on net, including a blast that he was just able to tip up and off the crossbar 25 minutes into the match.
"We're getting used to it," Colony coach Jeremy Johnson said of playing a man short for most of the game, explaining that a player had been ejected in the early going from the Knights' match against Juneau Thursday for swearing.
"We just need to work on finishing," Johnson said. "Even with 10 men, I felt like we played them straight up. We only put four shots on goal, but we took about 20 shots."
Soldotna's Adam Green kicks the winning goal between Wasilla's keeper Jacob Williams, right, and a pair of defenders in the second half Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Stars were able to apply some pressure to start the second half, aided by the wind at their back. Colony keeper Ian Walton was tested and responded with a leaping save 23 minutes into the half, and the Stars finally broke the deadlock on a corner kick five minutes later. Adam Green touched the ball home after it was played across the 6-yard box by Matt Vasilie.
The Knights continued to fire shots toward the Soldotna goal, but Sirois was able to tip the Knights' most dangerous bid just over the crossbar with about eight minutes left in the match.
"Hunter saved us two or three times," Siemers said.
While the Knights were able to possess the ball, Soldotna did well to counter quickly up the wings to create chances on net, playing through Peter Kim and Chris Houglum in the middle of the park.
"That's something we've been working on," Siemers said of attacking the flanks. "Finally, I'm seeing some of the stuff come together in a game that we've been practicing."
Siemers also credited Max Biggs with a solid match.
Colony girls 3, Soldotna 1
The Soldotna girls had just as many scoring opportunities as the Knights, but Colony's textbook shooting proved to be the difference.
"Their shots were beautiful, and ours were off target," said Soldotna coach Katie Tongue. "We had a lot of opportunities."
The Knights were the first to capitalize, though. Sianna Garrod was able to tip in a wind-aided, curling corner kick from Kristina Klapperich five minutes into the match.
The Stars came back with chances of their own Jennifer Senette had a dandy in the 18th minute when her blast from 20 yards out skipped off the outside of the post but Soldotna had a different means of creating its chances. While the Knights played a beautiful possession game, the Stars relied on quick counterattacks to generate shots on goal.
"Most of our chances came on counterattacks, but we did have some good one- and two-touch passing up the field. We had some chances off that, too," Senette said.
The Knights were able to pump in two goals early in the second half, though, to give themselves a cushion.
Teresa Hill scored on a hard shot three minutes into the second half, and Sienna Locke connected on a cross from Garrod nine minutes later.
Katie Mills put the Stars on the board 21 minutes into the second half, tucking away a cross from Sam Penner after the Stars worked a couple of give and goes up the left wing.
Senette said the Stars tend to play to the level of their competition, and facing the Knights proved to be a worthwhile challenge.
"It helps when you're playing a good team," Senette said. "Every game, we're gaining ground."
"Soldotna has really improved over the past couple of years," said Colony's Jessica Tuomi. "They have some really good players."
Colony goalkeeper Julie Coston said the Knights were still adjusting to a rebuilt midfield and defense this season.
"We've improved," Coston said. "We lost our entire midfield and two defenders. We're kind of just now getting our lineup set. It's finally starting to come together."
Soldotna boys 1, Wasilla 1
The host Stars moved their record to 3-3-2 with the draw. Soldotna's goal in the match came from Brennan Jackson.
Soldotna girls 4, Wasilla 4
The host Stars came back from a 3-0 deficit to secure the tie behind a hat trick from Jennifer Senette. Soldotna is now 4-2-2 overall.
The Warriors had a 3-0 lead 29 minutes into the match. Senette scored the first of her goals 31 minutes into the first half on an assist by Katey Jones.
Senette struck again on a direct kick with one minute left in the first half.
At 17 minutes into the second half, Stacey Foster tied up the match on an assist from Senette. Just four minutes later, Senette scored on a penalty kick to give the Stars a lead.
With six minutes left in the game, Wasilla tied it up on a penalty kick.
"That was huge to come back from three goals down," Tongue said. "To almost get that win was a huge boost for them. It was heartening to see."
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