The Kenai Central girls soccer team earned its first trip to state since 2001 by defeating Colony 3-1 on Friday in the semifinals of the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament at Skyview High School.
“It’s a big deal to me,” said senior Sam Calderwood, who captains the team along with seniors Keeley Boyle and Hayley Mishler. “I was telling Keeley I wanted to do one last good thing for this high school. I wanted to leave on a good note.”
The Kardinals started the relatively warm and clear day with the wind and sun at their backs and took advantage.
In the fourth minute, Mishler crossed the ball into the penalty area and the ball bounced off the body of Kenai’s Samantha Navarre in the direction of Boyle. Boyle got to the ball at the same time as a Colony defender but managed to place a perfect shot inside the post.
She said the shot, which came as she was spilling over the defender, was intentional but a bit lucky. She also said grabbing an early lead was important.
“It makes the game,” Boyle said. “It keeps everybody’s attitude where it needs to be.”
In the 12th minute, Kenai began four minutes of intense pressure that culminated when Boyle and Claudia Meder challenged a defender for a ball in the corner of the penalty area. Meder broke clear of the defense and finished high and to the far corner.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said Meder stepped forward in a very needed way for the tournament. In Friday’s first round game against Wasilla, Meder had the lone goal in a 1-0 victory.
In the second half, Colony put the sun and wind at its back and the difference was apparent. Calderwood said the ball was arriving quicker at her stopper position, making her feel sluggish. Mishler said balls were very tough to win out of the air due to the sun.
In the 50th minute, or 10 minutes into the second half, Colony’s Tara Garrod converted a penalty kick. Just seven minutes later, Kenai goalie Kyle Steward had to use every inch of her 5-foot-10 frame to keep a high Colony shot from tying the game.
In the 69th minute, Kenai’s Taylor Brewer iced the game when she scored on a direct free kick from 25 yards.
Nobody currently on Kenai’s team had won a game at the conference tournament before Friday, making the state berth even sweeter.
Two of the past three losses in the first round of the conference tournament have been to Wasilla.
“Their coach told our coach that they owed us because we beat them in the regular season,” Mishler said. “I didn’t see it that way. We owed them for beating us twice in the tournament.”
Colony boys 1, Kenai 0
Kenai boys 2, Grace 1
The Kenai boys lost to the Knights in the semifinals after defeating the Grizzlies in the first round.
Colony had defeated Kenai 6-1 in the regular season, but a different Kardinals team showed up Friday.
“We took it to them in the regular season,” Colony coach Jeremy Johnson said. “They’ve come a long way since then.”
Colony scored the game’s lone goal in the 18th minute. Gerald Miller got the ball on the right side and beat two Kenai defenders before entering the penalty area. At that point, several more defenders swarmed at Miller. That left Bryan Tomlinson wide open in front of the net, and Miller passed to Tomlinson for a goal.
From that point on, Kenai goalie Justin Wisniewski and Colony goalie Ian Walton kept the slate clean. In the 29th minute, Kenai bounced a shot off the side post. A minute later, the Kardinals forced Walton to make a diving save.
“We had some glorious chances,” Kenai coach David Landry said. “It was one of those games where we weren’t rewarded for them.”
Kenai’s last gasps came with two minutes left in the game, when Kyle Latz headed the ball over the crossbar, and with one minute left, when Jake Malanaphy headed a ball right to Walton.
The Knights start 10 seniors and a freshman, while Kenai starts four sophomores, five juniors and two seniors.
Colony’s Tim Egger put a lot of pressure on Kenai’s defense with his long throw-ins from the sideline, but Kenai was able to withstand the assault despite being the younger team.
Landry said his young team picked up confidence in the tournament.
“I told them they’ve always had the talent and the skill, but it will only come when they believe,” Landry said. “They believe now.”
In the game against Grace, Dusty Ward scored in the 20th minute on an assist by Cory Toombs for a 1-0 lead. Grace tied the game at 1-all with a goal by Miles Hayes in the 53rd minute.
Ward scored the game winner in the 71st minute off an assist from Tyler Smith.
Palmer girls 3, Grace 1
In the other girls semifinal, the Moose and Grizzlies played to a 0-0 tie through regulation and overtime before Palmer won 3-1 in a penalty-kick shootout.
Palmer boys 3, Wasilla 2
In the other boys semifinal, the Moose and Warriors played to a 0-0 tie before Palmer won in a penalty-kick shootout. Devon Conroy, Jared Berberich and Ben Beetch scored for Palmer, while Jimmy Sliwn and John Pahkala scored for Wasilla.
“Trent Berberich was the man of the match,” Palmer coach Tom Harrison said of his goalkeeper. “He came up big in the shootout and had several important saves in the game.”
Near the end of regulation, Palmer junior midfielder Jerry Melin was hurt in a collision. Melin said he was walking away from the collision when his legs went numb and he fell to the ground. Because of the possibility of a spinal cord injury, Melin stayed on the ground while an ambulance was called. Saturday, while watching the action at Skyview in the bleachers, Melin said he had bruised muscles in his back and a bruised kidney, but he may be able to play in the state tournament.
Colony girls 4, Skyview 0
In first-round action at Skyview, Megan Pfile scored three goals and Tara Garrod added another as the Knights ended Skyview’s season.
Palmer girls def. Homer
The Moose knocked out the two-time defending conference champions in a first-round game at Kenai. Kyenna McKinstry gave Homer the lead two minutes into the game, but Palmer’s Tess Anderson came back just four minutes later to tie the game.
A minute before halftime, Emily Kizzia scored to give Homer the lead, but Anderson struck again with eight minutes left in the game. Neither team scored in overtime.
In a shootout, teams send out five shooters and the team to score the most with those five shooters wins. Palmer and Homer were still tied after the first five. After that, each team sends out one shooter for sudden-death rounds. In the fifth sudden-death round, Palmer finally won.
Grace Christian girls 1, Soldotna 0
The Grizzlies got a goal on a free kick by Rachel Lucia from just outside the 18-yard line in the second half to defeat the Stars in a first-round game at Kenai.
Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said he is very proud of the way his team played, especially his seniors.
“All I asked of them was that they gave 125 percent out there,” Love said. “They all left everything on the field.”
Colony boys 3, Nikiski 1
The Knights defeated the Bulldogs in a first-round game at Kenai behind two goals from Bryan Peters.
Peters scored, on an assist from Gerald Miller, and Jarrod Carney scored, on an assist from Bryan Tomlinson, to give Colony a 2-0 lead. Nikiski’s Ian Krogseng took advantage of a passing miscue between Colony’s defense and goalie to cut the gap to 2-1, but Peters, assisted by Tim Jaronik, gave Colony back its two-goal cushion.
Jim Coburn said the Bulldogs played Colony much better in the tournament than the regular season. Coburn also said Rick Miller had a great game with 20 saves to end his prep career.
Palmer boys 1, Skyview 0
Palmer’s Devon Conroy scored in the 48th minute to give the Moose a first-round victory over the Panthers at Skyview.
“Skyview really came to play today,” Harrison said. “It was a lot different than last time.”
Palmer had defeated Skyview 5-0 in the regular season.
Wasilla boys 3, Soldotna 0
The Warriors received goals from John Pahkala, Jordan Ingalls and Adam Friese to defeat the Stars in a first-round game at Kenai.
Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said his team created more opportunities than in a 6-0 regular season loss to Wasilla, but still did not create enough opportunities. Siemers said freshman goalie Daniel Geller got plenty of action and played well.
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