Nikiski’s Maddie Iyatunguk and Kenai Central’s Chloe Grimm battle for the ball Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski’s Maddie Iyatunguk and Kenai Central’s Chloe Grimm battle for the ball Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Friday soccer: Kenai, SoHi girls, boys to play for Peninsula Conference titles

The Kenai and Soldotna girls and boys soccer teams advanced to the championship games of the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament with victories Friday at Kenai Central High School.

The Soldotna boys, the top seed, beat No. 4 Nikiski 15-0 to move to 14-0-1 and drop the Bulldogs to 2-10-0. The Stars qualify for state for the fourth straight tournament.

The Kenai boys, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 3 Homer 2-1 on penalty kicks to move to 9-4-1 and drop the Mariners to 6-6-1. The Kards qualify for a ninth straight state tourney.

The Kenai girls, the top seed, defeated No. 4 Nikiski 6-1 to move to 13-2-1 and drop the Bulldogs to 2-10-0. The Kards go to state for a third straight year.

The Soldotna girls, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 3 Homer 2-1 to move to 12-1-2 overall and drop the Mariners to 7-4-3. This will be the sixth straight season at state for the Stars.

Today, the Nikiski and Homer boys play for third place at 10 a.m., while the Nikiski and Homer girls play for third at noon. Those teams are all looking to improve their chances for an at-large bid to state.

The boys championship is at 2 p.m., while the girls title game is at 4 p.m.

Kenai boys 2, Homer 1, PK

After two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtime periods resulted in a 1-all score, the Kardinals won the five-round penalty shootout 4-3.

It was the latest close game between the teams. Kenai won two one-goal games over Homer in the regular season, while Homer took one one-goal contest.

Kenai coach Shane Lopez said goalkeeper Bradley Morrison was amazing in his first shootout, making two saves.

“He’s only been a goalkeeper for about six weeks,” Lopez said. “He took on the role at the beginning of the season because we needed somebody.

“He’s stepped up and done an amazing job.”

In the first round of the shootout, Homer’s Spencer Dye and Kenai’s Aloshia Cross missed. The next three shooters for both teams were successful — Kai Waltenbaugh, Reid Rauch and Caleb Bunker for Homer, and Trae Pitsch, Sawyer Vann and Cole Langham for Kenai.

After Morrison turned back Lucas Story, the state berth rested on the boot of sophomore Kainoa Taylor and he delivered. Lopez was proud of the young player.

“Stepping up in a PK shootout is not easy,” the coach said. “I feel the stress on the heart and I’m just standing back and watching.”

In a game that featured great chances for both sides and multiple great saves by Morrison and Homer keeper Walden Kraszeski, Kenai struck first when Ryker Dykema converted a through ball from Cross in the 26th minute.

“For 100 minutes of the game, he’s out there leading the team and keeping the pressure on,” Lopez said of Cross. “He’s an excellent captain.”

In the 74th minute, Dye equalized on an assist from Rauch.

“It’s always brutal losing a game in pens, but I’m very proud of them,” Homer coach Kenneth Schneider said. “They played a hard game and they played 100 minutes of soccer, which is never easy to do.”

Lopez said his defense played excellent, with Dakota Wisnewski stepping up to shut down some success Homer was having on the outside.

Schneider said the defense was solid even though Story was moved up to the midfield for most of the game. The coach said Beau Miller and Rocco Flora held down the middle of the defense, while Caleb Bunker played well on the outside.

Kenai girls 6, Nikiski 1

Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said the goal was to jump out to an early lead and get the starters rest for Saturday’s game. Kenai did exactly that.

The Kards bolted to a 3-0 lead in the first 22 minutes, with Brynnen Hanson scoring on a Katie Johnson assist, Hanson scoring on a Wisnewski assist, and Johnson scoring on a corner kick from Kylee Verkuilen.

Before the end of the half, Verkuilen would score directly on a corner kick and Savannah Hershberger would fire a ball into the box that bounced off a Nikiski defender and into the net.

In the second minute of the second half, Ashlynne Playle scored on an assist from Alexa Iyatunguk. Playle made up for missing a penalty kick in the first half by scoring the first goal for Nikiski this season against a Peninsula Conference opponent.

In the 77th minute, Kenai’s Tabitha Kernan finished the scoring after Alexis Taylor played a corner kick into the box. The ball bounced around before Kernan converted.

Despite the loss, Nikiski coach Angie Coelho was happy with the way her team played.

“Their passing has progressed,” Coelho said of her team. “Really, that’s what the game is all about.

“When you start passing it and getting it to people on your team, and not booting it up the field and hoping for the best, it makes you feel like they’re playing good ball.”

Coelho gave credit to senior Emma Weeks for a great game in goal, and to freshman center midfielder Millie Hornung. Coelho said Hornung kept her energy up and kept making the right plays even as Kenai stretched out its lead.

“To have a midfielder play that aggressively at 6-0 or 5-0, I feel is just like gold,” Coelho said.

Coelho said getting a win against Homer will be important if the Bulldogs want a solid chance of getting an at-large berth to state for a second straight year.

Soldotna girls 2, Homer 1

The Stars scored late to reach the final.

In the first half, Emily O’Reagan put Soldotna up with help from Sadie Lane and Alex Lee. Before the end of the half, Regan Baker tied it up for the Mariners on a Katelyn Marroquin assist.

Bay Bloom scored in the second half for Soldotna.

Homer coach Mike Tozzo said he would have liked to earn the automatic berth to state, but he said his team played well and that will serve as a good building block if the Mariners qualify for an at-large berth.

Soldotna boys 15, Nikiski 0

The Stars cruised past the Bulldogs to reach the final, with Luke Hillyer and Bryan Berg combining on the shutout.

The goals in the first half were Lane Hillyer assisted by Johnny Wardas, Zac Buckbee assisted by Simon Willets, Lane Hillyer, Andrew Arthur from Wardas, Arthur from Daniel Heath, Wardas from Lane Hillyer, Zac Buckbee from Owen Buckbee, Simon Willets unassisted, and Lane Hillyer from Zac Buckbee.

In the second half, the goals were Lane Hillyer from Wardas, Heath from Owen Buckbee, Arthur, Gehret Medcoff, Brody Linton, and Declan Culver from Medcoff.

Kenai goalie Bradley Morrison makes one of his two saves during the penalty kick shootout against Homer on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai goalie Bradley Morrison makes one of his two saves during the penalty kick shootout against Homer on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Miles Metteer and Homer’s Berend Pearson fight for the ball Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Miles Metteer and Homer’s Berend Pearson fight for the ball Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski celebrates a goal by Ashlynne Playle (second from left) on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski celebrates a goal by Ashlynne Playle (second from left) on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Kainoa Taylor (8) celebrates his game-winning goal in the penalty kick shootout against Homer on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Kainoa Taylor (8) celebrates his game-winning goal in the penalty kick shootout against Homer on Friday, May 17, 2024, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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