The Soldotna girls and boys soccer teams continued their solid play of late with victories over Ketchikan Friday at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School.
The girls defeated the Kings 5-1 for their fifth straight victory, while the boys edged Ketchikan 2-1 for their third victory in four tries. The SoHi girls are now 6-2-1 overall, while the boys are 3-4-2. Both finish up their regular season Monday when they host Homer.
Sun and wind heavily influenced play Friday. In the first half, the Soldotna girls were playing against the wind and looking into the sun.
Often, teams try to stay 0-0 in such conditions, then push for the win in the second half. However, Lauren Senette, Ashley Bell and Christa Kennedy buried goals for the Stars in the first half as they took control of the game.
"We were trying to keep the ball low so it would not get caught up in the wind," Soldotna defender Abby Kiffmeyer said. "At halftime we had a 3-0 lead even though we were facing the sun and the win, so we did a great job."
Defender Katie Coursen also gave credit to sweeper Ricki Jackson and goalie Marlana McCown for their ability to judge the flight of the ball despite the wind and sun.
At halftime, the Stars got a speech about not letting down in the second half despite their lead. However, in the first couple of minutes of the second half Elizabeth Harney, one of five starting freshmen for the Kings, broke through for a goal.
"We were warned about that at halftime, so when they got that goal right away, we got right back into the game," defender Erin Hartman said.
Annie Penner scored a pair of goals for the Stars to once again restore order.
Ketchikan was playing its third game in three days. With Soldotna subbing constantly, the Stars were able to keep the pressure on.
"That's something our coach does really well," Hartman said. "We have fresh feet in the game all the time."
Ketchikan coach Kay Jones, whose team defeated Nikiski and Skyview on this peninsula swing and is now 6-5, said Soldotna's size and speed was unexpected and hard to deal with. She did say Katie Geldaker, who came on for Amy Wadley at goalie in the second half, did a good job of snaring some high shots.
While the wind didn't affect the scoring in the girls game, the scoring in the boys game went with the team that had the wind and sun at its back.
Soldotna had the wind and sun at its back in the first half. Five minutes into the game, Johnny Mills collected a long ball played into the box when the Ketchikan goalie misplayed it. Mills then deposited the ball in the back of the net.
In the 18th minute, Ketchikan earned a penalty kick but Hunter Sirois made the save on the penalty kick. Just three minutes later, Garrett Gardner made it 2-0 with a booming volley from the top of the penalty box.
"That was a crucial save," Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said of Sirois' play. "It looked like it was going to be 1-1, then a couple of minutes later we were up 2-0."
The Kings cut the lead to 2-1 24 minutes into the second half when Conner Pihl played a through ball to Thanh Nyugen, who played the ball past Soldotna keeper Kory Wilbanks.
That would be all that Wilbanks and sweeper Dan Ghormley would allow in the game, though.
Siemers said his team really came together following an April 30 victory over Seward, in which the Stars scored twice in the final minutes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
"In the last few games, we've moved Johnny Mills into the midfield," said Siemers of Mills, who had been playing forward. "He's been able to create a lot in the midfield."
The Kings fell to 0-5 with the loss.
"We're having a hard time scoring goals," Ketchikan coach Wayne Kinunen said. "We're getting a lot of attempts, but we're not finishing a lot of shots."
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