The seedings showed the Colony boys as the favorite over Homer on the first day of the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament. As the top seed from the North division, the Knights were supposed to win easily over the No. 4 South squad Mariners.
Instead, Colony had to sweat out a 1-0 victory over Homer at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna to advance to the semifinals, using a last-minute goal to clinch the victory.
In the final minute of stoppage time, Colony striker Alex Valdez knocked in the goal on a ricochet off Homer goalkeeper Kenzington Cortez.
“We’re not surprised,” said Colony coach Jeremy Johnson. “We played them 2-0 earlier this year, and today we held possession and just had trouble putting shots on their goalkeeper.”
Colony will face Soldotna, the No. 2 seed from the South, today at 1 p.m. in a semifinal meeting at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. SoHi beat Palmer 6-1 Thursday, and earlier in the season defeated Colony 5-2.
Johnson pointed to Homer’s style of counterattacking — which he said reminded him of the newly-crowned English Premier League champions Leicester City — as the tactic that kept his Knights from scoring.
“They play Simon (Dye) up the middle well and (Charles Rohr) just keeps them organized in the back,” Johnson said.
Homer’s sturdy defensive line frustrated the Knights all game long. A rotating core of Jordan Beachy, Marley McGuire, Charles Rohr, Daniel Wiest, Charlie Meinke and Timothy Blakely helped contain the fierce Colony attack, which was led by seniors Ben Sande and Valdez. Colony had several close shaves with the goal, but could not finish as the Knights outshot the Mariners 10-1 in the second half.
Homer coach Warren Waldorf said after a season of experimenting with field positioning among the players, Thursday’s contest featured the most potent Homer squad he could manage.
“Our back line was awesome, but we weren’t going to beat them today,” Waldorf said. “The best team won today.”
Sande launched a shot off the crossbar nine minutes into the second half, then was denied again just a minute later with a header from a corner kick that was snagged by Cortez in midair.
In the 72nd minute, freshman Michael Sliwa was first to a corner kick attempt, but the shot off his left foot clanged off the right post, keeping the game scoreless yet again.
Finally, as the game moved to stoppage time, Colony had its chance. Valdez caught a through ball from the left sideline and sent a shot on goal to Cortez, who deftly blocked it. The rebound was sent off a few players in the goal box before Valdez finally found the ball again and slotted in the game winner.
The ensuing midfield kickoff was silenced almost immediately by the sound of the referee’s whistle.
Waldorf said although he felt his squad came into the tournament primed to compete with any opponent, the season was not a lost venture.
“No way,” he said. “Regret stings, and there’s no way we’re feeling any regret today.”
Kodiak boys 3, Wasilla 2, PK
The Bears toppled the Warriors in a thrilling quarterfinal match Thursday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai, beating Wasilla 5-4 in penalty kicks to record the young program’s first ever region tournament win.
Second-seeded North division team Wasilla led 2-1 at halftime, but Kodiak, the third seed from the South, scored in the second half to force overtime. When extra periods were not enough to decide a winner, the game went to penalty kicks.
Wasilla’s Tim Voloshin missed the first opportunity, and that proved to be the difference. Kodiak converted on all five of its kicks from Daniel Beltran, Jose Cortez, Julio Rodriguez, Emerson Portillo and Aaron DeLeon to clinch the victory.
The Bears will meet host team Kenai Central today at 6 p.m. to decide who goes to state. The loser will have to win Saturday’s third-place game to earn a state berth.
Soldotna boys 6, Palmer 1
SoHi senior Dylan Kuntz netted a hat trick to lead the Stars to a dominant quarterfinal victory Thursday evening at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna.
Kuntz opened the scoring in the first minute, sending a shot on goal that redirected off a Palmer defender for a quick lead. Kuntz then tallied two more in the second half to complete his feat.
Andrew Hammond notched a pair of goals, starting with a penalty kick in the first half and adding a second goal before halftime. SoHi led 3-0 at the break.
Ben Godfrey scored midway through the second half to push SoHi’s lead to 4-0.
“We were controlling the midfield and owning the ball, and finishing well,” said Soldotna coach Darryl Byerley. “I was happy to see the possession arrow strongly on our side.”
Blake Jones came close to the shutout in goal for the Stars, but Palmer scored on a penalty kick in the second half.
SoHi, the second seeded team from the South division, will face Colony, the top seed from the North, today at 1 p.m. at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. Colony barely survived the opening day with a 1-0 win over Homer, the No. 4 seed from the South.
Soldotna beat Colony 5-2 in the regular season, a game in which both sides were lacking several key players due to injuries.
“I expect Colony to come out quite hungry,” Byerley said. “I expect them to bring their A game.”
Kenai boys 3, Grace Christian 0
Kenai Central sophomore Zack Tuttle scored a pair of goals Thursday evening at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai to lead the host team to the win.
Tuttle struck in the 12th and 35th minutes, starting with a superb header off a corner kick from freshman Damien Redder, and ending with an unassisted strike.
Entering the tournament as the top seeded boys team from the South division, the Kardinals felt little pressure on the defensive end, and junior goalkeeper Tristan Landry had the shutout in goal with only a few real save opportunities.
“I told the guys, a 2-zip lead (at halftime) is the most dangerous score in soccer,” said Kenai coach Joel Reemtsma. “Our intent was to keep focused and stay disciplined.”
Tuttle set up the assist to Redder for the third goal midway through the second half, which left Kenai with some breathing room.
“It was a nice goal to have, because it allowed us to pull some guys off the bench,” Reemtsma said.
With the win, Kenai advances to the semifinal round with a date with Kodiak today at 6 p.m. Kenai and Kodiak played to a scoreless draw on April 30, a game that Reemtsma felt was one the Kards could have won.
“We’re excited to have the opportunity to play them again,” he said. “We got kind of complacent in the last time we saw them, and had trouble finishing.”