The Soldotna boys advanced to the fourth-place game while the Kenai Central boys and Soldotna girls ended their seasons on Thursday at the state soccer tournament at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The Stars received a pair of goals by Blaine Carver to defeat the Kardinals 2-1 in the fourth-place semifinals. The Soldotna girls lost to Colony 1-0 in the fourth-place semifinals.
The SoHi boys will play an opponent that will be determined today in Saturday's 8 a.m. fourth-place game at AFS.
This is the second straight year the Stars defeated the Kardinals in the fourth-place semifinals at state. Last year, Soldotna's victory came in a shootout.
Last year's tight game fueled a rivalry between the two squads this season. After tying in the regular season, the Kardinals notched a 2-1 overtime victory in the championship of the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament on Saturday. Thursday's victory by the Stars put the teams at all square for the season.
"We've always kind of felt a rivalry with them, and it got stronger because we were both the strong peninsula teams and with us hosting the tournament," said Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers, whose team is now 12-2-1.
Carver started the scoring 17 minutes into the game when he tallied on an assist by Matt Grubb. A little more than five minutes later, Carver, on an assist by Josh Harvey, notched his 27th goal of the season.
"We played better in the second half against Dimond," Siemers said of his squad's 1-0 loss in the opening round to the Lynx. "We kept the momentum from that game, even though we did lose."
Using subs to keep fresh legs in the game and at times switching to a three-forward offense, the Kardinals (8-4-2) continued to try and fight back in the second half. With nine minutes to play, Josh Lazaro tossed a throw-in to the top of the penalty area, where Codi Woodcock flipped the ball over the head of keeper Dan Geller and into the back of the net.
"It definitely got closer than we wanted to see it," Siemers said. "We were enjoying the two-goal lead. In the last 10 minutes of the game, we were trying to possess the ball, but Kenai was coming on strong. They did not die easy."
While the Stars go to the fourth-place game, the Kardinals continue to search for their first state victory. The team is now 0-10 in five tournament trips, with five of those losses coming in overtime.
"There's been some hard luck on that," Kenai coach David Landry said. "A little luck here or a different bounce there, and it's a different story. When it happens, it'll happen.
"We remain pleased with the progress."
It was the final game together for Kenai seniors Devin Boyle, Reed Ehrhardt, Brandon Goggia, Kristian Larson, Jeremy Narlock, McKenan Steinbeck, Cory Toombs, Joakim Vatnaland and Justin Wisniewski. Even so, Landry said there was nobody was hanging their heads after the game.
"To be quite honest, Soldotna is still the best side we've faced all year," Landry said, adding Boyle was named Kenai's player of the match.
Landry thanked the community, assistant coaches Pete Ehrhardt and Wally Ward, and parents for supporting the team. He said Barry Norwood's parents set up a kitchen at the University of Alaska Anchorage housing so the players could come in and get food whenever they wanted to.
Siemers said the Stars received several nice saves from Geller in the last 10 minutes. He also said Grubb, Carver and Kyle Van Ryzin stood out. Carver was player of the game.
"I think it's bittersweet," Siemers said of the appearance in the fourth-place game. "As I'm talking, I'm watching Juneau-Colony. I feel we can compete with other teams in the state. We only had one opportunity and we played a better second half than first half, but we didn't take advantage of the opportunity we had."
Landry agreed that the Kards and Stars were not that far behind the Anchorage schools. He said he wanted a chance to play some Anchorage schools in the regular season next year.
Colony 1, Soldotna 0
Kara Larson scored in the 73rd minute off an assist from Tara Garrod as the Knights avenged a loss to SoHi in the semifinals of the NLC tourney and made it to the fourth-place match.
Soldotna co-coach Jimmy Love, whose team finished 12-2, said one big difference from the NLC tournament was that his squad was missing Jessi Stenga and Jenna Redford due to injury.
"I can't pin it all on that," Love said. "That's not why we lost. But it would have helped to have them in there."
The coach said he still considers the season a great success. The Stars went undefeated through the regular season and conference tournament to earn their first NLC title and first state berth. The team is very young, losing Jamie Sinclair, Becky Warton, Kioni Garcia and Monica Maryott.
"The freshmen who started with us this year -- what a great way to start their careers," Love said. "The sophomores who played last year made it to state as sophomores. You can't say that's not a good way to go.
"A lot of kids play soccer for four years and don't make it to state at all."
Love said the whole team played well. He said Shana Powell stood out on defense, Rebecca Satathite had a great game in goal, and Kaitlyn VanMeter stood out at midfield.
"That goes through both games -- I thought the whole team did well," Love said. "It's a big step up for everyone, including us coaches. I hope there are many more trips to come."
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