The Soldotna girls soccer team proved itself the class of the Northern Lights Conference this season.
Unfortunately for the Stars, the best soccer teams in the state proved they are a class above the NLC on the first day of the state soccer tournament in Anchorage.
Soldotna absorbed a 4-0 loss to defending state champion Dimond in the opening round and will face Wasilla today at 11 a.m. at Chugiak in a loser-out game.
The NLC came up winless Thursday as the Chugiak girls topped Wasilla 6-1, the Juneau-Douglas girls topped Colony 3-0, the Juneau-Douglas boys topped Colony 3-1, the West Valley boys beat Grace Christian 2-0 and the South Anchorage boys notched a 2-0 win over Wasilla.
"What truly needs to happen for soccer on the peninsula is we need to see these teams more," Soldotna coach Mike Tovoli said, speaking of Anchorage squads. "It's tough to get these games with Anchorage teams because they stay here. Same with Fairbanks and Juneau."
The Stars went 13-1 in the regular season, with the lone loss coming to Dimond. SoHi outscored opponents 46-6 in the regular season. In the NLC regular season, no team came within a goal of SoHi.
The Stars then had shutouts in the three games of the NLC tournament and came into state riding a seven-game shutout streak.
That dominance quickly came to an end when Dimond scored on corner kicks in the 19th and 20th minutes. Jackie Latourneau scored the first goal, while Aaliyah Lewis had the second goal.
"We didn't do a good job marking up," Tovoli said. "Once the ball left, we watched the ball and didn't keep marking players."
In the final minutes before the first half, Colleen Fairchild made it 3-0.
"To be honest with you, my team didn't show up," Tovoli said. "They were timid and scared. Midway through the second half, they started playing really hard."
Madison Richards scored in the 58th minute to complete the scoring for the Lynx. Alexis Rogers was the player of the game for Dimond, while Kylee Wolfe netted the honor for SoHi.
Tovoli said the bright spot was getting all of his players into the game.
"It gave them time to understand what physical soccer is all about," he said.
But the coach said that Kenai Peninsula players need more than a few games each year to understand this higher level of the game.
"Good things won't happen until we get turf outside," Tovoli said. "We'll continue to have this disparity."
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