After scoring more than 20 goals as a freshman, Wasilla sophomore Kendra Miner came into the Northern Lights Conference tournament with just one score this season.
But Miner couldn't have found a better time to post No. 2.
Miner scored seven minutes into overtime to lead the Warriors to a 3-2 win over defending champion Soldotna in the Northern Lights Conference tournament third-place match at Palmer High School on Saturday.
"(Soldotna goalkeeper Becca Satathite) is an exceptional goalie. To put that in was a great moment," Miner said of her score, which also guaranteed the Warriors the conference's final state tournament berth.
During the 87th minute, Miner and fellow sophomore Ashlynn Frizzelle traded passes before Miner was able to move a shot past Satathite.
After Frizzelle took control of possession at midfield, she passed the ball over to Miner, who quickly moved it back. Frizzelle briefly held the ball again before chipping it ahead to Miner. As Satathite moved forward to challenge, Miner got by and chased the ball into the net.
"Both teams playing their heart out trying to get to the state tournament," said Stars coach Mike Tovoli, whose team lost 2-1 to Colony on Friday, the lone goal coming from T'essa Tovoli. "We had a breakdown on defense and they snuck one in the back of the net."
Wasilla needed the Frizzelle-Miner connection late in regulation to force overtime. With Soldotna holding the 2-1 lead, Frizzelle knocked in a rebound of a Miner shot during the 78th minute to tie the score at two.
"Of course it's always disappointing when you can't advance on," Tovoli said. "When your teams plays hard, you want the best for them. Like anything, I take this as a learning experience."
He's hoping his players do, too.
Last year the Stars ran the table to the tune of a 12-0 mark, including three straight wins to capture their first-ever NLC tourney and qualify for state for the first time.
"If they want to get back to the state tournament and to get to region champs, they need to take a look at this season and see where we can improve moving forward," said Tovoli, who loses just two seniors next year.
"Seeing both sides of that, I hope they took a good look at what the very top of the mountain is and what the very bottom of the mountain is.
"If they want to be at the top of the mountain and enjoy those experiences and enjoy those thrills when it comes to soccer, then we've got to put forth some work and we have to do some things differently."
Frizzelle's work helped erase a strong start to the second half for the Stars. Soldotna scored twice during a five-minute span early in the half to take the 2-1 lead.
During the 42nd minute, freshman Phoebe Napolitano knocked in a Jessi Stenga cross to tie the game at 1-1.
Five minutes later, Stenga somehow split through Wasilla junior Krizia Verplancke and Warriors goalkeeper Sammy Becker in the left side of the box, and snuck a shot into the far side of the net.
"They came out like they needed to right away in the second half," Craig said of the Stars.
During the 22nd minute, about 10 minutes after Nikki Vanni gave the Warriors the 1-0 lead, Wasilla junior Celaena Powder kicked the ball away from an open Wasilla net to preserve the lead.
Stenga also hit the crossbar during the 98th minute.
"We had several opportunities," Tovoli said. "Five, six opportunities. We just couldn't do it. It wasn't our year to find the back of the net and advance this year."
Either way, he was still proud of his team.
"We came out harder today than we did yesterday," he said. "We almost played a full 80 minutes. I think there was a couple of lapses and that's where it cost it.
"You've got to credit the girls for battling no matter what the game was, the score was, they continued to battle and I'm very proud of that fact."
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