Defense was the key to Soldotna's 3-0 win over Colony in Friday's Northern Lights Conference girls semifinal at the Kenai Sports Complex. With the victory, the Stars earned a trip to the state tournament for the second time in three years. SoHi missed state last year but went in 2008 as the NLC champs.
"We limited their shots and our defense was phenomenal," Stars head coach Mike Tovoli said.
He said Kelsey Van Antwerp, Erica Byerley, Shana Powell and Kylee Woodford played great games on the back end.
"We only held them to a couple shots," SoHi's Kaili Sholin said. "We did a pretty good job shutting them down in the middle."
SoHi jumped out to a quick lead on a goal from T'essa Tovoli in the third minute. She put a shot on goal and the ball deflected off of the keeper's hands and found the back of the net.
"We came out with a lot of intensity," Sholin said. "That just pumped us up and made us come out even harder," she said of the fast goal.
Kaiti Van Meter gave the Stars a two-goal lead with a strike in the 29th minute. Van Meter took a pass from Phoebe Napolitano and curled a shot in the top-left corner. The Stars led 2-0 at the half.
"We played a good first half," coach Tovoli said.
The Stars weren't as strong in the second half, he said. To win the NLC championship, it will take a full 80 minutes of effort from the entire team, coach Tovoli said.
Colony's game stems from its solid midfielders, so SoHi wanted to take them out of the game, Powell said.
"Keeping pressure on their midfield was our main goal," she said. "It doesn't give them a chance to turn. It gives us a chance to gain control."
Powell said her team did a good job sustaining that pressure during the game.
"It was a lot of teamwork," Sholin said.
Sholin and Powell said they're excited to be going back to state, especially after missing the tournament last season. Wasilla defeated SoHi 3-2 in overtime in the third-place game last year.
"It feels amazing," Sholin said.
Powell scored the lone goal of the second half in the 53rd minute. She launched a long-ranger over the keeper's head for a 3-0 lead.
"I didn't expect it to go in," Powell said. "I looked at it and said, 'I can just shoot this.'"
Powell said the goal was pure luck but it was exciting because as a defender she doesn't score too often.
Heidi Westerman recorded the shutout for SoHi.
Soldotna girls punch ticket to stateAshlyn Frizzelle scored in the 68th minute to give Wasilla the win over Kenai and earn a state berth.
The Kards were a much-improved team from when Wasilla handed them a 4-1 loss earlier this season, Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen said.
"I'm so impressed with the improvement from a few weeks ago," he said. "The first game they had us spinning in circles. Today, we stayed disciplined."
Verkuilen said his team was able to keep Wasilla from generating shots in front of the Kards' goal.
"They're really effective on building up their outsides," he said. "Today, we did a very good job of limiting that."
Allie McGahan and Taylor Ostrander played well at midfield, Verkuilen said.
The Warriors jumped out to a quick lead on a goal from Nicole Vanni in the game's first minute.
"That was a tough one to chew on," Verkuilen said.
But his team settled down after the quick strike, he said. Verkuilen said he told his team if they could keep the game close at halftime, they'd have a chance to win. Kenai did just that and kept the score at 1-0 at the half.
Lauren Schams tied the game on a long blast in the 56th minute. From the right side of the field, Schams ripped a shot on goal. It went past the keeper, hit the left post and went in.
Verkuilen said Kenai needed to put more pressure on Wasilla's keeper.
"We were wishing we could have tested their goalie a little more," he said.
The entire team gave a great effort, Verkuilen said.
"Our girls have a lot of heart," he said. "I was real proud of how they played."
On the boys side, Wasilla defeated Palmer 4-1 in overtime. Colony beat Grace Christian 5-0.
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