The Kenai Central High School boys soccer team tallied a goal in the closing minutes to notch a 2-1 win over Soldotna Thursday in a key Region III-Southern Division match in Kenai.
Also Thursday, the Soldotna girls clinched the top seed from the division for next week's Region III tournament with a 3-0 win over the host Kardinals.
"That should put us in first, but the (Northern Division) teams, none of them are going to be a cakewalk," said Soldotna girls coach Katie Tongue of possible matchups at the region tournament. "The playing field has leveled out."
The playing field was tipped in Soldotna's favor on Thursday, though. The game was scoreless through most of the first half. While Soldotna spent more time at the Kenai end of the field, the Kardinals were able to mount several good attacks themselves.
Megan Needs broke the deadlock with less than a minute to play before the half, assisted by Erin Wolfe, giving the Stars just the spark they need to take control of the match at the start of the second half.
"Sometimes it takes us that long to get our act together," said Soldotna's Sam Penner, who finished with two assists. "Once we get a goal, that gives us momentum. We just need to get that first one."
Penner set up the Stars' second goal just 10 minutes into the second half. Jennifer Senette played a corner kick into the Kenai penalty area which was headed around. Penner nodded the ball to Wolfe, who was finally able to play a header into the net.
Katey Jones made it 3-0 four minutes later, finishing off a nice passing sequence up the left wing with her shot. Penner assisted on the play.
The Kardinals were able to create some good attacks late in the match, springing Keeley Boyle on several occasions, but Soldotna's goalkeepers proved up to the task. Starter Marlena McCown was injured coming off her line to stuff a breakaway 18 minutes into the second half, and Needs filled in the rest of the way. Tongue said she was pleased to see Needs rise to the occasion.
The Stars also were able to put a lot of shots on goal, testing Kenai keeper Kassi Kiel.
"I'm happy with how we controlled the ball -- we got a lot of shots off," Tongue said.
The Stars finish the regular season with a 5-2-3 overall record and a 4-0-1 division mark. Kenai, 2-1-1 overall and 2-3-2 in the division, travels to Seward today.
Kenai boys 2, Soldotna 1
The Kardinals got a pair of goals from Jacob DeClouet, including one with about four minutes left to play, to defeat Soldotna.
With the win, the Kardinals level their division record at 2-2-0 (3-3-1 overall) and secure the third seed for the region tournament.
The Stars, 3-5-2 overall and 1-3-1, are done with their regular-season schedule and must wait to see how the rest of the division finishes up before they can make any plans for the region tournament.
"It's not a fun one to lose," said Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers.
The Kardinals were the first to strike, with DeClouet firing a rocket from about 30 yards out after the ball was knocked to him off a short goal kick from the Soldotna keeper 18 minutes into the match.
Soldotna was able to maintain some pressure for long stretches of time, but couldn't find a way to beat Kenai goalkeeper Tyler Morris until Chris Houglum converted a penalty kick to tie the match just three minutes into the second half.
Play got a little ragged during the half and things started to get chippy, but Kenai coach David Landry was pleased to see that the match never turned ugly.
"It wasn't exactly pretty, but it was a hard-fought game," Landry said. "... It was one of those games that could have deteriorated fast, but it didn't."
DeClouet scored his second goal with about four minutes to play, trapping the ball out of the air and volleying his shot from about 10 yards out. DeClouet said fellow frontrunner Micah Lillard had a big part in his goalscoring.
"Me and Micah -- and everybody else -- we're all getting on the same page," DeClouet said. "The first couple games were hard, but now we're communicating better with each other, and getting used to the way everybody plays."
Kenai visits Seward today and hosts Ketchikan Saturday.
Ketchikan boys 3, Skyview 2
The Panthers suffered their first loss of the season in a nonregion match against Ketchikan.
The Kings scored the first goal of the match, converting a penalty kick after a Skyview defender accidentally handled a ball that had hit him in the face.
Elliott Gauthier sent the match into halftime tied at 1, though, scoring in the 35th minute.
Ketchikan scored a pair of goals early in the second half, though, scoring off a free kick 10 minutes into the frame, then tallying a breakaway goal eight minutes later.
Trevor Barber pulled the Panthers to within a goal with 12 minutes left to play, but Skyview couldn't come up with the equalizer.
The Panthers are 8-1-1 overall and have the Region III-Southern Division's top seed in next week's region tournament.
Nikiski boys 3, Seward 0
The Nikiski boys defeated Seward in A Region III-Southern Division match at Nikiski.
The Bulldogs got a pair of goals from Jeremiah Taylor and one more from Nick Russell as Nikiski was able to pile on the shots against the Seward goalkeeper.
Josh Winters recorded the shutout in the Nikiski goal.
Nikiski coach James Coburn complimented the play of his midfield, including Joey Wicker, Rustin Hitchcock, Travis McGahan and Travis McCaughey.
Nikiski finished division play with a 1-3-1 record and is tied for the fourth and final region tournament berth with Soldotna. Coburn expects the deciding tiebreak will be a coin flip as Nikiski and Soldotna tied each other and have similar records against nondivision opponents.
Nikiski hosts Ketchikan today.
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