Soldotna girls soccer coach Mike Tovoli had a season goal of winning the Northern Lights Conference championship. After checking that off his list with a 3-1 win over Wasilla last Saturday, Tovoli is looking to his next goal -- win a game at the state tournament.
The third-seeded Stars take on sixth-seeded Dimond today at 11 a.m. at Adair Kennedy Field in Juneau. Though SoHi hasn't seen Dimond this season, Tovoli said his team has a good chance to win.
"I feel confident we can play with them," he said just before boarding a flight to Juneau Tuesday evening.
So does the rest of the team.
"We have a pretty good draw from our bracket," Stars senior captain Emily Rohloff said. "We just have to focus on the first game. Take one game at a time."
For success, the team will have to continue to come together, as it did during the NLC tourney, Tovoli said.
"We need to continue to do the same and work hard," he said.
"I think we just need to play our game, and not let other teams affect us," Rohloff said. "We'll dig deep and play our best."
Passing, communicating and letting the ball do the work are keys to the Stars game, Rohloff said.
"When everything is clicking for us, we're passing well and moving the ball across the field," she said. "Everyone gets a touch on it."
Along with passing to negative space, working as a team and forwards applying pressure on the opposition's defense bring out the best in the Stars, Tovoli said.
Cashing in on scoring chances will be crucial at state, Tovoli said.
"We need to capitalize on all opportunities," he said.
The midfielders and defenders will need to have good games, Tovoli added.
Team communication was a highlight of the NLC tournament, Tovoli said.
"I just liked how we communicated, how we worked as a unit," he said. Tovoli said his team was always willing to make an extra pass or shoot when needed.
The Stars worked hard and played full, 80-minute games, Rohloff said. She said the team knew it was going to be a long three days and had a game-by-game mentality. The same will be needed a state, she said.
Tovoli's message to his team is that anything can happen.
"We have nothing to lose an everything to gain," he said. "It only takes one good chance. We just need to work on that and build on every possession and every touch."
Mike Nesper can be reached at email@example.com.
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