Soldotna falls to Dimond at state

Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dimond continues to be a thorn in Soldotna's side.

After eliminating the Stars from state-soccer championship contention last season with a first-round victory, the top-seeded Lynx again dealt Soldotna a blow in the opening round of the state soccer tournament on Wednesday, beating SoHi 5-2 at the Anchorage Football Stadium.

Dimond, which earned a 1-0 win in last year's first round, also beat Soldotna for the Class 4A state basketball title in March.

"We are pretty disappointed, knowing that we beat them early in the season," SoHi coach Jeff Siemers said via cell phone, referencing his team's 1-0, season-opening win over the Lynx. "We knew that they were going to come out strong. I think our guys would have been happier with a better showing.

"They came off getting first place in the Cook Inlet Conference tournament," he added. "That really is going to provide confidence for a team."

Making matters worse for Soldotna was the absence of 2009 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year and Northern Lights Conference MVP Blaine Carver, a junior who racked up 26 goals thus far this season before sitting out Wednesday's game with a leg injury suffered in the third-place game of the NLC tournament on Saturday.

"That was kind of key for us not being able to possess the ball up top with him not being in the game at all," Siemers said. "When you lose your top goal scorer, that doesn't help morale. But the guys did come in pretty confident knowing that we could do well. But we could have used him for primarily possession up top and his goal scoring."

The way things started, though, it looked as if the Stars may buck the trend of peninsula teams' opening-round struggles at state since the tourney began in 2000, with local teams having gone 1-17 entering play on Wednesday.

Denizhan Susmus struck just three minutes into the contest, staking eighth-seeded Soldotna to a surprising one-goal lead.

"It felt real good to be able to get up quickly," Siemers said, "but just knowing that this is the state tournament, that it wasn't going to end 1-0."

Unfortunately for Soldotna, he was right.

Siemers said Dimond struck twice within maybe two minutes of each other near the midway mark of the first half before SoHi's Tate Syverson found the back of the net in sending the teams into halftime knotted at 2.

"We felt pretty good at half," Siemers said. "They came out playing strong in the second half and we just didn't counter as well as we should have."

Dimond took the lead for good early in the second half and tacked on two more goals, one on a penalty shot, in advancing to Friday's semifinals.

Soldotna, meanwhile, is relegated to play for fourth place, a standing the Stars have achieved the past two seasons after dropping their first-round games.

"They're used to getting up and playing early and for a lot of these guys it could be the last game of their high-school career and so that plays on their mind," said Siemers, adding senior goalkeeper Daniel Geller was honored as Soldotna's player of the game after making a number of solid saves.

"So they want to come out and show well.

"Our past has shown that we can win games at state," he added, "we just haven't been able to capture the first one."

In order to make it to Saturday's fourth-place contest, the Stars today at 8 a.m. will have to top second-seeded Colony, which fell to Wasilla, 1-0, on Wednesday.

The Stars beat the Knights 4-3 on May 8, but Colony went on to capture the NLC crown, while SoHi took third.

"Coming back after a 5-2 loss is always difficult," Siemers said.

"But we don't want to go home. Even if it's at 8 o'clock, we're going to play as strong as we can."

The third-seeded Kenai Central girls began their state-championship quest today with a 6 p.m. match against sixth-seeded Juneau-Douglas.

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