The Colony girls received a pair of goals from sophomore Megan Pfile Thursday to defeat Homer 2-1 in the opening round of the state soccer tournament at Colony High School.
The Mariners move into the fourth-place bracket for a game today at 2 p.m. at Wasilla. Colony plays a semifinal game at 6 p.m. at Colony.
Homer came into the tournament with the No. 3 seed after winning the Region III crown. Colony, meanwhile, finished third at the Region III tournament and came in as the No. 6 seed.
After winning the third-place game Saturday at Kenai, the Knights scouted the championship game between Grace and Homer.
Colony came up with a three-pronged plan to beat the Mariners. The Knights wanted to play better as a team, play the ball forward diagonally instead of straight forward and win 50-50 balls.
The Knights did all three of those things Thursday.
"We did not play very well," Homer coach Mickey Todd said after his team fell to 9-2-1 overall. "At the same time, give credit to Colony.
"They played well when it counted. This was the best I've seen them play all season."
Homer is a patient team that strings together passes beautifully if they are given the opportunity. That's why one of the priorities for Colony was to go hard to the ball and interrupt Homer's flow.
"At the beginning of the season, we were not winning 50-50 balls," Colony coach Lorie Miner said after her team improved to 8-3-1 overall. "We'd step back, let them turn and say, 'Go ahead and do what you want with the ball.'
"Today, we saw that winning those 50-50 balls makes a big difference."
After Chantrelle Cousins' bid to an open net went just high in the first minute of the game, Colony settled in and started disrupting Homer's attack.
In the 22nd minute, Pfile notched her first goal of the match when she lofted a shot over Homer goalie Kathryn McCarren from the corner of the penalty area.
Pfile put the Knights up 2-0 two minutes into the second half. Colony played one of those diagonal balls Miner was talking about ahead in the direction of Pfile. McCarren came out of the box and got to the ball first, booting it straight up in the air. She tried to play the ball again, but the backspin kicked the ball to Pfile, who took a few touches and played a long shot into the back of the net.
"I kept telling our forwards that if the goalie was going to play way out, we should just shoot because it'd be tough for her to get back," Miner said. "That's exactly what Megan Pfile did."
Homer picked up the pace after falling behind 2-0, and freshman Claire Siekaniec scored in the fifth minute of the second half by beating a couple of defenders and waltzing in all alone on the Colony keeper for a goal that looked surprisingly easy.
The Mariners failed to generate any momentum off the score and Colony held them off without any significant scares.
"With the region championship, we've already had a great season," Todd said. "Hopefully, we can come up with a better ending to our season."
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