The Skyview High School boys soccer team figured circling the wagons would be the best way to stop Soldotna's high-powered offense Tuesday at Skyview.
The strategy almost worked -- the Panthers held the Stars scoreless for 76 minutes of an 80-minute match before Soldotna's patience paid off in the form of a Skyview own goal, breaking the stalemate and setting up a 2-0 Region III win.
The Soldotna girls didn't need nearly as much time, striking 12 minutes into their match with the Panthers en route to a 4-0 victory.
"You have to keep trying to crack (their defense). You have to keep confident that you can put one in," Soldotna's Ben Histand said of the boys match.
After 76 minutes of trying, the Stars finally got on the board. Lucas Petersen sent a ball across the front of the Skyview goal off a corner kick. The ball got past keeper Josh Rowell, and Ryan Childers, trying to knock it wide of the goal, inadvertently touched it into his own net.
The tally came after the Panthers were able to turn away plenty of strong Soldotna bids, playing a sort of "prevent" defense.
"I'm happy -- it's just too bad the walls came tumbling down in the last couple of minutes," said Skyview boys coach Dave Carpenter. "We just gave them too many attempts.
"We usually keep two defenders back and send one up, but today we kept all three of them back. They did a real good job for us to let everyone get back and make sure everyone was accounted for."
In fact, the Stars never got any sort of breakaway against the Panthers, and every shot was contested or taken from at least 20 yards out. When the Stars were able to get the ball to a forward, they were constantly looking at more purple than blue in front of them.
Both Soldotna goals came off of corner kicks. Iver Kohler netted the Stars' second goal with about a minute left in the game, poking a shot past Rowell after the ball had been bounced around in a scrum in front of the net.
The Panthers had a handful of good chances on the Soldotna goal, but most of Skyview's shots were rocketed high and wide and the Stars defense was able to secure the shutout for keeper Houston Morris.
"It was a nail-biter from my standpoint," said Soldotna boys coach John Bramante. "It's just a matter of keeping the pressure up and waiting for the fatigue factor to set in. Keep the pressure up and the goals will come. We really had to show patience."
The cross-town rivalry had plenty of intensity, and neither side backed down from a hard tackle.
"That's because everybody wanted this game so bad," Histand said. "It's always a fun game, always intense. We're friends and when we see them around town, you want to know that you beat them on the field."
That attitude inspired the Soldotna girls' victory over Skyview.
"We were all really jazzed and nervous," said Soldotna's Jennifer Senette. "School was really tense today. We all wanted get this one."
Sam Penner put the Stars on the board with her shot from the top left corner of the penalty area 12 minutes into the match. With Skyview keeper Ailis Vann out playing the angle, Penner sent her shot high to the far post. Vann backpedaled but couldn't recover to get to the ball.
Senette set up Penner five minutes later on an indirect kick from just outside the penalty area. Penner slipped into a gap in the Skyview defense, received a pass from Senette on the 6-yard box and one-touched it into the net.
"I think we just had a lot of confidence in ourselves today," said Soldotna's Erin Wolfe. "I think our passing is getting better, especially our long balls. We've got some players in the back who can get us the ball up front, and our scoring is better -- we're putting the ball in the goal."
Senette took care of the rest of the scoring for the Stars. She gave Soldotna a 3-0 lead just before the half, collecting the ball off a throw-in, touching around several Skyview defenders and taking a solid shot once she gained the penalty area.
Senette scored the only goal of the second half in similar fashion, beating a pair of Skyview defenders with her dribble before pushing her shot past Vann.
"That was tough. I thought we would compete today, but SoHi took it to us," said Skyview girls coach Tony Lewis. "We played against the best player I've seen this year in Jennifer Senette. Jennifer and Erin Wolfe -- that combination was deadly."
The Stars had another strong effort from sweeper Ricki Jackson and stopper Amy Breakfield in the middle of the defense to keep the Panthers penned up in their own end of the field.
Both sides have two games left. The Skyview girls (3-5-8) and boys (3-4-1) play at Kenai Friday and at Homer Saturday. The Soldotna girls (2-5-1) and boys (5-2-1) host Grace Friday and travel to Kenai Saturday.
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