Scenes of chaos punctuated the late stages of Saturday afternoon’s Peninsula Conference girls clash between Soldotna and Homer at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna, and now that it’s over, the fun will really begin.
Amid waves of rain and hail, SoHi held off a late charge by Homer to win a Peninsula Conference regular season finale 2-1, forcing a three-way tie atop the conference standings with Homer and Kenai Central. All three teams finished the regular season at 4-1-2 in conference play.
The tiebreaker will require the third or fourth option to break it up, which will provide one team a big break in getting the No. 1 seed, while the No. 2 and 3 seeds will face off in next week’s region semifinals, with a state spot on the line. The top seed will face the winner of the No. 4 and 5 quarterfinal round, either Nikiski or Seward.
“This is huge for us,” said Soldotna head coach Jimmy Love about the Stars forcing the tiebreak. SoHi would have been relegated to the third seed with a loss.
“That’s a tough game,” Love said. “Regardless of who it is, it’s a tough game for either the two or three seed. The two-three game could very well be the championship game.
“It’s probably the most even I’ve seen a season, to be honest.”
The Stars flaunted their strength early with two first-half goals from Journey Miller and Meijan Leaf on strikes from long distances that found the back of the netting for a 2-0 halftime lead.
Homer and Soldotna tied 3-3 in an April 9 meeting, so the game was already expected to be a tight battle for supremacy before the opening whistle.
Homer head coach Mike Tozzo was left lamenting the sluggish start by the Mariners.
“I thought we did a great job, the girls played … couple mistakes, though,” Tozzo said. “Two goals, not enough pressure up front. It’s alright, things happen, that’s a really good team over there.
“It was just too little, too late at the end. We’ll be all right, we’ll regroup and get back into it.”
The Mariners turned up the pressure in the second half with the wind and rain at their backs and consistently harassed Soldotna goalkeeper Margarida Mendoca, who jumped on several close calls to keep the shutout going.
Eventually, Homer’s front line broke through in the 77th minute on a free kick opportunity. Eve Brau took the shot and found Zoe Stonorov in the goal box for a goal that slashed the lead in half.
From there, the final minutes featured a frenzied flurry of activity in Soldotna’s end of the field as Homer fought to equalize, but nothing could get through Mendoca.
Soldotna also celebrated Senior Night and recognized team seniors Kortney Birch, Haley Buckbee, Pauline Catacutan, Hannah Delker, Mykenna Foster, Serena Larrow, Sierra Longfellow, Roos Meijer, Margarida Mendoca and Maria Victoria Cunha Maciel.
Homer boys 3, Soldotna 0
The Mariners secured the second seed for next week’s Peninsula Conference tournament Saturday with a win over a depleted Soldotna team.
Homer secured the second seed in the conference with a final league record of 4-2-1, while SoHi dropped to 4-3-0 in conference and will receive the third seed in the tournament. Kenai (6-0-1) clinched the top seed on Thursday with a tight 1-0 win over Homer.
A win for the Stars would have given them the second seed, but it would not have prevented a region semifinal matchup with Homer next week. Last year, Homer defeated SoHi on penalty kicks in the region semis.
SoHi was playing without a significant chunk of their starting core Saturday due to eight players being expelled from the team for disciplinary issues, including six starters.
Soldotna assistant coach Erik Dolphin said the loss of Soldotna’s most potent scorers made for a tough day on offense against Homer.
“The biggest thing is it’s been very mentally draining,” Dolphin said. “It’s one of those things where morale has been the hardest thing to try to keep up at this point.
“We have a lot of good players still remaining, but it’s hard to keep morale up in the face of adversity like that.”
SoHi’s seasonlong starting goalkeeper Hunter Woodward played about 15 minutes as a position player before leaving to heal a leg injury, allowing Colton Sorhus to get a full game in goal for the Stars.
Homer goalie Clayton Beachy earned the blank sheet in net for the Mariners, who maintained a tough midfield battle with SoHi for stretches of time. Homer easily put more shots on goal than SoHi, which had trouble finishing runs on Homer’s end of the field.
“I kind of figured if they lose eight varsity players, it may be easier than it would’ve been otherwise,” said Homer head coach Warren Waldorf. “But those kids came hard and played hard all game. It wasn’t easy, it took us a little bit to figure it out and get a couple goals on them.”
Phinny Weston opened the scoring for Homer 14 minutes in on a free kick from over 30 yards out that sailed over Sorhus’ hands.
Despite losing numbers, the Stars held the Homer lead to 1-0 at halftime, but the Mariners kept pressing.
Eventually, Daniel Reutov was able to tally the insurance goal for Homer in the 52nd minute, outracing a SoHi defender into the goal box and slotting home the scoring strike on a slide.
Austin Shafford scored in the final minute of regulation to seal the victory for Homer.
Waldorf said he feels confident in his team as the postseason gets underway next weekend in Homer.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Waldorf said. “We’ll play this team next week, and obviously we feel a little easier about it.”
Dolphin said the Stars will not be bringing back any players for the conference tourney, but said a performance like Saturday’s will go a long way in giving them a boost.
“We didn’t get the result but it helps bolster our confidence a little bit,” Dolphin said. “We played them 1-0 for most of the way, so we played them tough.”
Homer girls 1, Thunder Mountain 0
The host Mariners improved to 11-2-4 overall by taking the nonconference match on senior night.
A little over two minutes into the game, Kappa Reutov scored, on an assist from Sienna Carey, and the Mariners made it stand up for the rest of the game. Homer and Thunder Mountain had played to a scoreless tie earlier in the season.
Homer’s seniors all played a big role in the victory, starting with Carey on that assist.
In the second half, Tozzo said Thunder Mountain was on Homer’s half 90 percent of the time, but Homer’s defense was fantastic. The defense was led by seniors Kimberly Lynn and Summer McGuire.
Tozzo added that senior Brenna McCarron was great in the midfield, while senior Ali McCarron was solid in net before getting hit hard in the head and having to come out of the game.
Paige Jones replaced McCarron in the net and made a diving save with seven minutes left to preserve the lead.
Homer boys 4, Thunder Mountain 3
The host Mariners came back from a 3-1 deficit to notch the nonconference victory and move to 9-4-2 overall. Homer avenged a 2-1 loss to the Falcons earlier in the season.
Just under five minutes into the game, Phinny Weston gave the Mariners a 1-0 lead. But then Thunder Mountain ticked off three straight goals for a 3-1 lead before Homer’s Tom Gorman scored three minutes before halftime.
In the 11th minute of the second half, Daniel Reutov scored on an assist from Parker Lowney. About eight minutes later, Reutov pocketed the game-winner with help from Weston.
Homer coach Warren Waldorf was happy his team was able to claim victory while honoring the seniors. Senior Desmond VanLiere, who normally plays junior varsity, wore the captain’s armband and played the first 20 minutes of the game and the last 10.
Avram Salzmann, Henry Russell, Dexter Lowe and Tom Gorman also saw extensive action.
“That was huge,” Waldorf said. “We have not been down two goals like that and come from behind to win. I was shocked. I didn’t know they had it in them. It’s a good lesson going forward.”
Kenai girls 0, Thunder Mountain 0
The host Kardinals tied the Falcons in nonconference action Saturday.
Kenai had five players missing due to choir in Anchorage, including four starters. The Kards close the regular season 5-4-4.
“We had a lot of shots and opportunities, we just didn’t put anything in,” Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen said.
Kenai boys 4, Thunder Mountain 0
The host Kardinals closed their regular season with a nonconference victory to move to 9-3-2 overall.
Kenai had six or seven players missing due to choir in Anchorage, but Leif Lofquist and Nate Beiser were both present and bagged two goals apiece. Kenai led 3-0 after the first half.
Backup goalie Aidan Milburn earned the shutout.
Lopez said the absences created a lot more playing time and everybody responded well to it. The coach said Connor Felchle did great in a move to center back, Francisco Garmen Munarriz was solid at attacking midfield, and Evan Stockton shut down Thunder Mountain out wide.
“The guys are playing well,” Lopez said. “It’s exciting.”
Rain wipes out Seward games