The Soldotna girls soccer team defeated host Skyview 3-1 Monday in a crucial Northern Lights Conference-Southern Division matchup.
Both teams came into the game with 1-3 records in the Southern Division. The winner of the game would qualify for the conference tournament, while the loser would see its season end. Getting a goal and an assist from Hannah Anderson, the Stars extended their season.
In the boys game, the Skyview boys marched onto their home turf behind a banner, plus music from bagpipes and a snare drum. During the game, the beat went on for the Panthers, who recorded a 5-0 victory behind three goals from Trevor Barber to improve their record to 5-0 in the Southern Division and 7-4-1 overall.
The Soldotna girls have had great success against NLC Northern Division teams this year, going 3-1. Except in the case of a tiebreaker, only Southern Division games are used to qualify for the conference tournament.
The Stars lost their first three Southern Division games, but rebounded to win their last two and qualify.
"I think one of the girls put is best when she said, 'There's nothing like waiting until the very end to come together and play more as a team,'" Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said.
Anderson got the Stars on the board in the 29th minute, beating goalie Chantal Schefers to a cross by Jordan Love.
In the 39th minute, Anderson played a pass back to Katey Jones at the corner of the penalty area. Jones lofted a perfect shot over Schefers.
Seven minutes into the second half, Makena Roesch made it 3-0 when she knocked in the rebound off an Ashley Bell shot.
"SoHi just played great," Skyview coach Ronnie Kier said. "Jimmy really had them ready to go."
Love said three weeks ago he told his squad to stop kicking the ball around and start passing it. The Stars took time to collect and pass the ball Monday, making the speed they have up front all the more dangerous.
In the midfield, Love said Lauren Senette and Tory Coursen did a great job of anticipating Skyview's moves and stealing the ball back.
Finally, sweeper Kala Fowler used her speed to clean up a couple of messy situations, and goalie Maricela Sanchez smothered a few more by aggressively coming out to the front of the penalty area.
Skyview broke through for its lone score 35 minutes into the second half. Ginny Berg, a senior captain, hit Amber Kunz, the other senior captain, on a through ball for the score.
"Our seniors deserved more than what they got this year," Kier said. "They never quit or hung their heads. They fought to the end."
Kier also said Schefers had a great first year in goal and he looks forward to her future.
Skyview boys 5, Soldotna 0
The Panthers, who finished third in the state last year, warmed up for another run in the postseason.
Barber and goalie Matt Stalnik, Skyview's two returning all-state players from last season, were at the core of the effort.
Barber had an assist in addition to his three goals, while Stalnik recorded the shutout.
Despite the loss, the Stars and their 2-3 division record still earn them the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament.
"They had good control, they were able to possess the ball a good amount of time, and they took good, quality shots," Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said of the Panthers. "That wins games."
Barber started off the scoring 12 minutes into the game with a left-footed shot into the far corner off a pass from Tyler Thornton.
Five minutes later, SoHi goalie Kory Wilbanks was unable to control a cross by Barber, and Jason Smith tapped in the rebound.
In the second half, Thornton and Barber hooked up again, this time on a cross and a header. Aaron Singleton then got into the scoring act by driving in a cross from Sean Mallette.
Barber got some good fortune to finish up the scoring. He beat two defenders to get to the top of the penalty area, but then pushed the ball too far ahead of himself. A Soldotna defender tried to clear the ball, but it thudded off Barber's shin and screamed into the corner of the goal.
"I'm not sure he even wants that one," Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said jokingly.
The coach said he is happy with the way Smith and Kyle Eshleman are becoming a tandem to be feared up front. Carpenter also said Buck Kunz has solidified the team by taking over the stopper position, and Thornton is complementing Barber nicely in the midfield.
Siemers liked the way Kyle Martin and Spencer Tachick played in the midfield. He also said Wilbanks stood up well under heavy fire in the goal.
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