After completing a road trip to the Kenai Peninsula with unbeaten records still in tact, both the Colony High School boys and girls soccer teams have established themselves as the squads to beat in Region III.
The Knights finished up the current road trip Thursday at Soldotna, where the Colony girls put together a 7-1 win and the Colony boys ground out a 5-1 victory.
"That's the level we'd like to play at," said Soldotna boys coach John Bramante.
"I think you play up -- or down -- to your opponents," said Soldotna girls coach Katie Tongue. "We saw a nice passing game at work. That's the biggest thing -- getting (our team) to have confidence with their passing game."
The Soldotna girls got off to a great start. Danielle Kerrone got a good shot off on the Colony goal in the opening minutes, and Jennifer Sennette was awarded a penalty kick five minutes into the game after being tripped in the Knights' 18-yard box.
Sennette's shot went straight at Colony keeper Brooke Thomas. Colony put the first goal on the board four minutes later when Kate Rose out-jumped the Soldotna defense to get her head on a corner kick, nodding the ball past Stars keeper Tasha Zsoter.
"We had a lot better performance today than we did yesterday (against Kenai)," said Colony coach Lorie Miner. "We showed a little more of what we're capable of."
Colony's Kelly Quinn scored with a rocket of a shot after a ball rebounded off the Soldotna woodwork 13 minutes into the match, and Amber Tubbs was waiting to pounce on a loose ball after Zsoter juggled a tough shot in the 27th minute.
The Stars notched a goal in the 29th minute to cut Colony's lead to 3-1. Sennette controlled a pass from Kerrone and launched a pretty shot that cleared Thomas' outstretched arms and then dipped down and into the net.
"(We) saw that Colony was vulnerable," Tongue said. ""That did us a lot of good to see that we could put one away."
Sam Gatto added one more goal for the Knights before the half, touching home a rebound after Zsoter deflected another blistering Colony shot with about two minutes left in the half.
"Our keeper is really a fullback," Tongue said. "She's going to have some bobbles, but a team like Colony isn't going to let that go."
Gatto scored her second goal of the match midway through the second half, Helena Wierzbicki added a goal in the 65th minute with a shot she tucked inside the upper corner, and Quinn netted her second of the game with about 10 minutes to play on a shot that deflected off a Soldotna defender before skipping past Zsoter.
"They pass really well," said Soldotna's Sam Penner. "We started passing better at the end, and not backing off but taking it to 'em more.
"We played our hardest -- but there's still room to improve. It's always a learning experience, especially against a team like that. It gives you something to shoot for."
The Colony boys scored the only goal of the first half in their game against the Stars. Nathan Chud converted a penalty kick 15 minutes into the match after foul was called on a Soldotna defender for a physical tackle in the box.
The Knights carried the play for most of the game, though, and netted a pair of goals in the opening minutes of the second half.
Soldotna keeper Lee Green made a diving save on a hard Colony shot, but couldn't smother the loose ball before Felipe Rosa was able to put it in the net.
Rosa scored his second goal of the game two minutes later, volleying a cross from Kit Pace into the back of the net to give the Knights a 3-0 lead.
Colony went up 4-0 in the 52nd minute. Green handled a ball played into the box, put it down and then picked it up again. The Knights were awarded an indirect kick, on which the ball has to be touched by two players before it can go into the net, inside the Soldotna penalty area.
Green was called for an elbow and issued a yellow card in the process of defending the indirect, nullifying the apparent goal but giving Colony a penalty kick instead.
Green apparently had some remarks for the referee on his way off the field, though, and drew a red card ejection, meaning that the Stars would play the final 28 minutes with only 10 players.
Cory Creighton converted the penalty kick, and Gabe Edwards added one more goal on another penalty kick with just over 10 minutes left in the match.
Joshua Gemmell scored Soldotna's lone goal with about two minutes left in the game. Colony keeper Andrew Kawalszk fielded a back pass off a teammate's head and picked up with his hands, a play that appeared to be by the book. The referee, however, ruled the the keeper could not play the ball first with his feet and then pick it up with his hands, and awarded Soldotna an indirect kick.
Gemmell took the feed on the indirect kick and rocketed a shot just under the crossbar.
Bramante was impressed with Colony's level of play, and said that his young team could get there over the next couple of seasons.
"There's a lot of young guys that can develop into that," Bramante said.
The Soldotna coach also was pleased with center midfielder Anthony Murray's effort in the center of the park.
"He holds things together in the middle of the field," Bramante said.
As for the Knights, being tabbed the team to beat is one thing, but living up to those expectations is another.
"A lot of people look at us as favorites, and we've played to that potential," said Colony boys coach Jeremy Johnson.
"We have to go out and prove (we're the team to beat) every game," Miner said, "but we also have the target on us. We're the ones that have to go out and work a lot harder than the opposing team to maintain that."
The Colony girls improve to 8-0-1 overall and 6-0 in region play while the Colony boys are 6-1 overall and 6-0 in the region. The Soldotna girls are 1-4-1 overall and in the region, and the Soldotna boys are 2-3-1 overall and in the region.
Houston girls 1, Seward 0
Seward did everything right for 75 minutes, but a quirky Houston goal spoiled an otherwise superb Seahawks effort.
"Seward played its best game of the year," said Seahawks coach Karol Fink. "We had the majority of shots, but they just hit a shot -- I'm not sure what happened -- it looked like it hit the crossbar but the referee said it went in."
Fink was pleased to see freshman Tara DeRuwe step into the varsity midfield and make an impact, and said that Miranda Mahle had several good shots from her forward position. Fink also liked what she saw defensively from Amber St. Amand.
The Seahawks (0-6 overall and in the region) are still looking for their first win while the Hawks are 1-1-1 overall and in the region.
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