It took about 89 minutes of Alaska School Activities Association State Soccer Championship action over the last two days before Blaine Carver finally scored Soldotna’s first state goal in school history.
His encore performance was even more impressive, though.
Trailing 2-1 in the waning moments of a consolation semifinal contest against Kenai on Thursday, Carver went down in the box, allowing his brother Brook the opportunity to knot the game on a penalty shot just before the final whistle.
Two scoreless 10-minute overtimes and a pair of sudden death, five-minute frames later, the freshman came through again, snapping a 1-1 penalty kick shootout by connecting on the final shot, propelling the Stars into the fourth-place game with a 3-2 victory over the Kardinals. It was Soldotna’s first victory at the state soccer tournament.
SoHi coach Jeff Siemers said there was never a question about sending his freshman phenom into such a pressure-filled situation with the game on the line.
“Blaine’s been a goal scorer for us all year,” Siemers said via cell phone. “I put him in the fifth shot as a freshman with the confidence that he’s been putting it away all year and he came through.
“He had 15 goals in the regular season. And he did very well for us in regions as well,” he added. “He’s our starting striker and I’m going to put him in the PK lineup for sure. Even putting him last.”
When the Anchorage Football Stadium scoreboard reaches the final two minutes, the clock stops, leaving the referees to keep the official time.
At that point, Kenai coach David Landry said he was waiting for the final whistle to blow at any moment.
“We kept waiting, and kept waiting and kept waiting,” he said.
After what both coaches described as a physical game with Landry adding, “There was a lot of pushing going on with guys extending their arms, not just giving somebody an elbow, just pushing them away.” the ref’s call in the final minute was up for debate.
Siemers said he couldn’t see what exactly occurred, but he mentioned how the ref took his time reaching a decision.
“He ran over to the box to make sure (Carver) was in the box and made the call,” he explained.
Landry doesn’t think it was warranted.
“From my perspective, there didn’t need to be a call,” he said. “You don’t let an official’s call decide a game at that point. The kids were playing hard.
“It was kind of sad from our perspective,” Landry added. “We really felt that the officiating decided the game instead of letting the kids do it. That’s kind of unfortunate. The kids played so hard and the kids deserved to win.
“The official’s role should be to see that physical play, address it and you set the tone. But if you do nothing, allow it to continue, it gets a lot worse. That just seemed to be the situation. That’s just the officiating style up there (in Anchorage). I don’t agree with it. You just have to learn to deal with that framework.”
Siemers said that type of play is expected between rivals.
“It’s part of the familiarity of being opponents,” he said, “and with that comes the physicality.”
Regardless of the call, both teams had their chances in the shootout.
Brook Carver opened it up with a goal before Kenai’s Barry Norwood, on his second opportunity after having a miss called back due to Soldotna keeper Dan Geller jumping the gun, missed again.
Following a miss by Kyle Van Ryzin, the Kardinals (9-4-3) converted the equalizer when Tyler Smith put it by Geller.
Each team then failed to score on it’s next two attempts, leaving it up to Blaine Carver, who netted the fifth shot, and Kenai freshman Justin Calhoun, who Landry said put his over the crossbar.
“We’re done for the year just that quick,” he said. “Everything happened within 30 seconds of the game being over.”
This heartbreaking setback was especially difficult for the Kardinals to swallow after suffering an equally agonizing defeat in Wednesday’s opening round, a 1-0 overtime loss to West.
“It’s tough,” Landry said. (Wednesday’s) game and today’s game, they’re both the type that take a long, long time to get over.”
That’s not to say, though, that he wasn’t pleased with the season.
“We showed we are no longer the dormant, little stepchild down here on the peninsula,” Landry said. “We don’t play the little coed, nansy-pansy kind of soccer anymore. We know how to play this game.
“We could realistically be waiting to play a game (tonight) in the semifinals. But for a few breaks, that’s the way this situation could have been realistically.”
Kenai responded to Carver’s goal in the ninth minute with two late tallies of its own.
Kris Larson took a pass from the right side, Landry said, and one-timed it past Geller in about the 25th minute and McKenan Steinbeck put the Kardinals in front in about the 35th minute when he found the back of the net from just inside the 18-yard line.
“We really felt like we started to control the game and had it where we wanted to have it,” Landry explained. “Our defense was solid, Justin (Wisniewski) was solid in goal as always. We were looking to get that third goal and that was kind of our objective in the second half.”
The win was rather bittersweet for Siemers and Co.
“It’s hard to take out another peninsula team, especially when we’re both looking to establish ourselves as a state presence with young teams,” he said. But “I wouldn’t want to give it to them.”
The Stars have a much needed day off today, having played five games in the last seven days, before playing on Saturday at 10 a.m. against the winner of today’s 8 a.m. tilt between West Valley and East.
“We’re looking to recuperate and get back in there and show up to finish the final game and get fourth place,” Siemers said. “Being able to go against either one, it will be a nice change instead of being able to play two teams (Kenai and Wasilla) from our region in the state tournament.”
Juneau girls 4, Homer 0
The Crimson Bears earned their fourth consecutive shutout and 10th of the season in blanking the Northern Lights Conference champions in an opening round game on Thursday.
Juneau led 3-0 after the first half, taking a 1-0 lead only four minutes into the game when Carly Lehnhart found the back of the net.
The Bears took a 2-0 lead in the 19th minute, scored again only nine minutes later and capped it off with a tally five minutes into the second half.
Homer will play Lathrop at 10 a.m. today for a berth in Saturday’s fourth-place contest.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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