The Homer High School girls soccer team gave Colony a run for its money Saturday in the title match of the Region III Soccer Championships, but the Knights proved too strong, scoring three times in the second half to notch a 4-1 victory.
In Saturday's girls third-place game, the Grace Christian Grizzlies clinched a trip to the state tournament with a 2-1 win over Palmer.
The Mariners, who will play in the state tournament next week at Colony and Wasilla by virtue of their second-place finish, had the Knights deadlocked at a goal apiece heading into the half.
Amanda Deml broke the deadlock three minutes into the second half with her second goal of the match, and Sianna Garrod scored in the 73rd and 78th minutes on a worn out Homer team to secure the win.
"Our defense played real well today," said Homer coach Mickey Todd. "You take away a penalty kick, and the last 10 minutes, and it's a 1-1 tie."
Deml converted the penalty kick for the Knights in the 20th minute, but Carly Garay was able to equalize six minutes later, breaking through for one of only seven goals the Knights have allowed in region competition all season.
"We knew we could stay with them," said Homer's Libby Bushell. "We got real tired at the end and let up a little, but I wasn't surprised we were tied (at the half). I thought we had a chance to take it."
The Mariners relied on holding the fort defensively, then playing the ball forward to their strikers as quickly as possible, a tactic that gave Homer several breakaway chances.
"We just wanted to keep the scoring down," Bushell said. "They scored five goals in the last game. We didn't want to give up at all. We knew we had to give it everything we had -- this is the last game in regions."
Colony was able to change the pace of the game in the second half, though, getting back to its ball-control passing game to keep the play in the Homer end of the field.
"It was a mental challenge," Colony coach Lorie Miner said of dealing with Homer's tactics. "We just talked at halftime, and let them tell us what was happening on the field, and we told them what we were seeing. What we were seeing was that we were running ourselves to death. We settled down and were able to get back into our groove."
While the Mariners continued to hang tough through the second half, Colony was able to create more and more good scoring chances, culminating in Garrod's first goal to take what wind there was left out of the Mariners' sails.
Todd said taking the loss was a little easier knowing the Mariners had already accomplished their goal of qualifying for the state tournament and had survived to be able to play another day.
"The main goal was to make it to state," Todd said. "Sending Wasilla home early makes up for it."
Grace Christian 2, Palmer 1
Anna Harvard scored twice as the Grizzlies clinched third place and a trip to the state tournament.
Harvard netted the first goal of the match eight minutes in, but Palmer was able to draw even on a strike from Felicia Sandvik nine minutes before the half.
Harvard notched the match-winner two minutes into the second half.
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