They may as well have been passing the ball in their own backyard.
With defenders hounding their every move Saturday, Brook and Blaine Carver made it look easy in leading Soldotna to a fourth-place finish in the Alaska School Activities Association State Soccer Championships at the Anchorage Football Stadium.
Brook booted the ball near the left sideline to Blaine, who controlled it and juked a man before tapping it back to his older brother.
The senior then recovered after being shoved off the ball, kept his composure and found the younger version of himself up the left side again.
That’s when Blaine took over.
Beating a man toward the middle of the field, he could have blasted a 25-yard shot that probably would have been deflected or saved.
But wisely, he didn’t.
Deciding to create a little more space, the talented freshman, who scored 15 goals during the regular season, outran a pair of West Valley defenders before unleashing a 20-yarder to the far left corner of the net, sparking a three-goal rally that propelled the Stars to a 3-2 victory and their highest finish in school history.
“He’s had that touch all year,“ SoHi coach Jeff Siemers said of Blaine.
He could easily have been talking about Brook, too, who recorded assists on the first two goals and later headed in the eventual game-winner in earning Player of the Game honors.
“Having Brook and Blaine playing well together has been a real good team,“ Siemers said. “It’s a great coincidence that they’re brothers, but even more that, we have our defender and the front guy playing real well.”
In case you haven’t watched the Stars (13-3) play this season, the elder Carver plays defense, taking most of the free kicks, while Blaine, the only freshman on the team, chases down balls up front, using his quick feet and speed to attack the goal.
That’s not the only difference between these siblings, though.
“He’s going to be better than me. He’s going to be a lot better,“ Brook said modestly. “He’s been working on it, practicing a lot more than me.”
If that’s the case, Northern Lights Conference opponents better beware.
“He’s going to be good,“ the senior captain said. “He’s going to be training in Germany and stuff. He’s doing a lot of camps.”
Culminating a five-game stretch in a span of seven days on Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory over Kenai in which both Brook and Blaine connected for the Stars’ only two penalty shots, Soldotna had a well-deserved day off Friday before hitting the pitch again Saturday.
The way they came out, though, 24 hours might have been too long.
West Valley competing in its first-ever state tournament after capturing the Mid Alaska Conference title owned Soldotna through the first 12 minutes, scoring twice before the Stars knew what hit them.
Planted inside the six-yard box, sophomore Evan McDonough corralled a cross from the right side in the first minute, pushed the ball off a Soldotna defender and slid it past SoHi keeper Dan Geller for a surprising early lead.
The Wolf Pack struck again 10 minutes later when three Soldotna defenders watched the ball roll between them and into their end while West Valley sophomore Nick Herzberg sprinted to catch up to it. When he finally did, Herzberg sidestepped a defender near the goal line and calmly put it by a diving Geller for a 2-0 advantage.
“Before the game, in the pre-game, I thought that we were doing well. But boy, they were just not coming out in the first 10 minutes and it showed and they scored two quick ones on us,“ Siemers said. “We were glad to be able to come back.”
Following the Carver Connection in the 15th minute that cut the deficit to 2-1, Brook sent a long direct kick flying toward the outskirts of the box, creating chaos that resulted in a Wolf Pack penalty.
On the ensuing free kick, Brook again nailed a perfectly-placed ball that sailed over the wall and off the crossbar where senior Christos Asimakopoulos was there, along with two other uncovered Stars, to tap in the tying goal in the 18th minute.
“We finally had some people to finish up,” Siemers said. “Brook took a great shot and to take it off the crossbar and then have somebody to finish it.”
Luckily for Soldotna, Brook doesn’t take all the direct kicks.
After West Valley junior Sam Schmoker was issued a red card in the final minute of the first half resulting in the Wolf Pack playing a man down the rest of the game, it didn’t take long for the Stars to assume the advantage.
Taking a free kick from just outside the left edge of the box in the 51st minute, junior Kyle Van Ryzin lofted a well-struck ball about 15 yards from the goal where Brook elevated and nodded it into the far upper corner of the net.
“I wanted to get a good header on that and luckily it went in far post,“ Brook said. “I had to go hard on that.”
As he does on everything.
Playing the final game of his high school career, Brook was pleased the Stars never quit.
“It’s extremely nice,“ he said. “This is my last game of my career and I had nothing to lose. I went all out and it just happened for us.”
But there’s a good chance it wouldn’t have without his own flesh and blood nearby.
“I’ve been working with him all season on that,“ Brook said of their early hookup on the first goal. “It’s just natural. I see my brother and I just get it up to him. It works out good.”
For everyone involved.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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