The Soldotna High School boys soccer team had been waiting quite a while to come away with a win against the Kenai Central Kardinals.
The Stars were finally able to do that Thursday in Kenai, scoring once in each half and then surviving a wild Kenai flurry of shots in the closing minutes for a crucial 2-1 Region III Southern Division victory.
The Kenai girls continued their winning ways as well, defeating the visiting Stars 6-0.
In other Region III soccer action Thursday, the Nikiski girls lost 11-0 at Colony. Skyview netted a sweep of Homer in Southern Division play, with the Skyview girls notching a 2-1 win and the Skyview boys hanging on for a 3-2 victory.
"That makes my day -- we've waited two years for this," said Soldotna's Anthony Murray. "We wanted it today. We got some bad bounces in the Skyview game (Tuesday), and we knew we needed this one. We knew it was going to be between us and (Kenai) in the southern conference."
The Kardinals netted the first goal of the match just six minutes in when Carlos Carreon put his shot away after taking a rebound off the Soldotna crossbar.
Soldotna took advantage of a free kick just to the right of the Kenai penalty area in the 20th minute to equalize, though, as Murray was able to get his noggin on the ball and nod it past the reach of Kenai goalkeeper Eric Nyce.
The Stars had a bid for another goal tipped just over the crossbar by Nyce eight minutes later, and the first half finished with the score knotted at one.
Johnny Mills broke the deadlock 12 minutes into the second half, finishing off a beautiful cross played in from the left wing by Chris Houglum.
The Stars made the lead stand up as keeper Adam Kiffmeyer and the Soldotna defense fended off a series of point blank Kenai shots in the closing minutes.
"It just comes down to intensity and who wants it more," Murray said.
Kenai coach David Landry said the Stars had the advantage in both of those categories.
"We didn't play well. You could tell that they wanted this game more," Landry said. "I hate it when we score quick. Sometimes guys get lazy after that. We watched them get to every ball first."
Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers credited his midfield, anchored by Murray and Peter Kim, with dictating the pace of play during the match.
"Our midfield really did a lot better controlling the ball and playing their game," Siemers said. "That was the key factor compared to our last game."
The Kenai girls finally reaped the benefits of playing their game, scoring two goals in the first half and adding four more in the second.
"It's nice to start scoring goals," said Kenai's Karli Knudsen. "We were in a slump, now we're out of it."
Knudsen set up Laura Moore for the first goal of the match, and Amy Fischer converted a penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.
Rachel Knowles netted an unassisted goal to open the second half, Fischer set up Katherine Amen for a goal and Jamie Montgomery made it 5-0 for the Kardinals, driving a ball into the box that bounced around and was deflected into the net off a Soldotna defender.
Erin Smith finished off the barrage, assisted by Angelica Carreon.
"Soldotna has some good players. Our job was to take those players out of the game," Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said. "You've got to credit our defense, and Breezy Saltzgiver -- her job was to match up with Jennifer Senette."
Breaking out with six goals got a monkey of the Kardinals' back.
"Since we've had low-scoring games, people have been frantic," Fischer said.
"It was so fun -- we just relaxed and played together," added Montgomery.
Kenai visits Skyview today while Soldotna travels to Homer.
Skyview girls 2, Homer 1
The Panthers recovered from what coach Tony Lewis called the worst 20 minutes of soccer they've played this season.
Chantrelle Cousins scored for the Mariners just five minutes into the match, but Skyview equalized with three minutes left in the half. Jenny Carpenter's corner kick deflected off a Homer defender and right back to her, and she made the most of her second shot, roofing it over the Homer goalkeeper.
Ginny Berg netted the matchwinner for the Panthers in the 62nd minute, assisted by Marina Holt.
Lewis said Skyview goalkeeper Katie Lockwood was instrumental in preserving the Skyview lead, stopping a Homer's best scoring chance on a breakaway in the second half.
Skyview boys 3, Homer 2
The Panthers weathered a late Homer rally -- not to mention Thursday's biting wind, to notch a Region III Southern Division win.
Jonathan Dalebout put the Panthers on the board 12 minutes into the match, heading in a ball that had been deflected in the Homer penalty area.
Matt Matarrese made it 2-0 when he scored on a direct kick, but Homer was able to cut the Skyview lead in half to open the second half.
Skyview's Chatchay Apaipak restored the Panthers' two-goal lead on a penalty kick in the 60th minute.
Homer scored on a corner kick with a minute to play to cut the Skyview lead to one goal, but the Panthers held on for the win.
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