With the Aurora Borealis Conference tournament kicking off today at the Kenai Sports Complex, the Cook Inlet Academy coed soccer team is set to defend its home turf.
The tournament features a clash of nine teams from two divisions, the northern contingent from the Aurora Borealis Conference and the southern contingent.
The Delta Junction Huskies enter as the top overall seed, while the CIA Eagles enters second overall and first from the south. CIA successfully defended its regular season conference title with a 6-1-1 record.
The Eagles begin their tournament today with a 10:30 a.m. matchup against Birchwood Christian, the fourth seed from the south. CIA is 3-0 against Birchwood this year, having outscored the Warriors 10-5 over the three games, and the most recent meeting between CIA and Birchwood resulted in a 5-3 win for the Eagles last Saturday.
However, with their eyes set squarely on the top prize, the Eagles are not looking past their opening game.
“Birchwood is well-coached, and they’ve given us a battle each time we’ve seen them,” wrote CIA head coach Kenny Leaf in an email.
with overwhelming offense and a solid defense. Senior co-captain Noah Leaf led the conference with 38 goals this season in just 16 games, and fellow senior captain Brady Hammond anchored the defense as goalkeeper.
The CIA offense has flourished this season with strikers Hunter Moos and Breona Delon complimenting Leaf up front with additional firepower. Moos has scored six goals this year and Delon has five, and coach Leaf praised the trio for being able to score in tight spaces.
The Eagles also have Jiabao Leaf and Kate Zimmerman, two potent wingers that have set up scoring chances throughout the year.
Behind the front line is a midfield and defensive core consisting of James Anderson, senior Dalton Warren and Adara Warren.
“The kids are excited to be playing at home,” coach Leaf said. “Last year we were shoveling snow off the fields and painting fluorescent lines to play.
“We don’t seem to get many home matches, so this is special.”
Other opening games Thursday include No. 2 North seed Su Valley against No. 3 South seed Lumen Christi at noon, No. 2 South seed Holy Rosary against No. 3 North seed Nenana at 1:30 p.m., and a 3 p.m. matchup between Delta and the winner of No. 4 North seed Tri Valley and No. 5 South seed Wasilla Lake, the latter of which begins at 9 a.m.