The second-half flurry of goals between Soldotna and North Pole at Soldotna’s Justin Maile Field on Friday was punctuated with a five-goal outburst between both teams in a 20-minute span.
By the time the dust settled, North Pole junior Skyler Denny had notched a hat trick for the Patriots, but Soldotna sophomore Josh Heiber one-upped him with four goals to lead the Stars to a 7-3 win.
“I’m still trying to make sense of it all,” said Soldotna head coach David Holmes. “I don’t know.”
The Stars moved up to 2-2 overall this year with the victory.
Earlier in the day, the SoHi girls got three goals from junior Meijan Leaf to down North Pole 6-1, giving the Stars a sweep on the day.
The wild second half in the boys contest was preceded by a tamer opening stanza that saw the Patriots grab a 2-1 lead, even as SoHi unofficially outshot North Pole 8-3 in the half.
“We weren’t connecting on anything,” Holmes said about the first half. “Just weren’t connecting, and it was pretty soft … we were so flat that first half. It’s a mystery to me.”
North Pole had lost 6-0 to Homer on Thursday, a team that SoHi beat 3-0 earlier in the week, so the matchup favored the Stars before kickoff.
However, North Pole took the first lead with a penalty kick eight minutes in after a Patriots player was taken down in the goal box. Denny stepped up and converted the shot for his first of the day.
SoHi answered in the 18th minute on a race to a through ball down the right flank that got in on Heiber’s strike, but Denny got it back nine minutes later on a cross from the right that he volleyed in for a 2-1 North Pole lead.
“Their heads can take them out of it, and their heads can get them right back into it,” Holmes said.
Heiber said he and the other team captains stressed to the team to not succumb to the pressure of being down a goal.
“We had our captains talk and say some words to us,” Heiber said. “Stop getting down on each other and if we make a mistake, it’s all about the next play.”
Things changed quickly, however, at the sound of the second-half whistle. Less than a minute in, it was SoHi’s turn to receive a penalty call and Alex Montague made the shot count to tie things up at 2 apiece.
Two minutes later, Heiber put SoHi ahead 3-2 by getting his head on a ricocheting ball in the goal box after a direct kick.
“We came back out and in the first five minutes we got two,” he said. “We just had all the momentum and kept going from there. … That PK really gave us a lot of momentum. Just having that goal gave us a lot of momentum and knowing the boys, we were a better team and we could see that in the first 10 minutes of the first half that we were slacking and getting down on each other.”
But it didn’t stop there. The Patriots tied it up yet again on a superb 53rd-minute goal by Denny on a free kick from outside the goal box. The strike glanced off the crossbar and caromed back into the net for a 3-3 game.
The Stars didn’t wait long to take back the lead. Heiber took advantage of a misplayed ball by North Pole’s goalie to kick in a rebound and a 4-3 lead.
SoHi senior Kaleb Swank headed in a goal on a corner kick in the 61st minute for a 5-3 lead, then was followed three minutes later by Heiber’s fourth of the night, a goal that capped 20 minutes and six goals.
Cameron Johnson tallied the final goal of the night in the 70th minute, getting his head on a loose ball in the box that got there on a long free kick by Montague.
Soldotna girls 6, North Pole 1
Meijan Leaf scored a hat trick en route to lead the Stars to a rebound victory Friday afternoon over North Pole.
Coming off a 3-3 draw with Homer — which was only possible due to a late goal by freshman Rhys Cannava — earlier in the week, SoHi was looking for a fresh start on Friday, and got it in the 11th minute as Leaf pumped in her first of the day on a corner kick by Journey Miller.
Leaf had yet to score in 2019, but credited fellow forward Sierra Longfellow chief among her teammates that gave her premier chances to break that short skid in the early portion of the season.
“We just had chemistry together,” Leaf said. “They gave me good through balls and they had good set balls.”
Freshman Jordan Strausbaugh, junior Ryann Cannava and freshman Katie Delker also tallied a goal each for SoHi.
SoHi head coach Jimmy Love praised Leaf’s performance, citing her as the latest player to step up when the team needs it.
“She’s always moving her feet,” Love said. “She’s like the Energizer Bunny.”
Delker and senior Margarida Mendoca split the two halves in goal for the Stars. Delker posted a blank sheet in the first half while Mendoca let in one in the second half amid a frenzied opening 15 minutes.
Love said he has been working with the team to play with consistency, but said he still didn’t see a full 80-minute game that was controlled by the Stars.
“All I told the girls was it doesn’t matter who we have on the schedule, it doesn’t matter what style they play,” Love said. “We’ve got to come out here and continue to play our game.”
After Leaf’s first goal, Strausbaugh was next in line to score for SoHi, getting a cross from her right while unguarded to tap home the goal for a 2-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
The Stars snuck in two more goals before the halftime break, one in the 39th minute on a strike from Cannava behind the North Pole defense, and the other in stoppage time by Leaf, who slotted home her second of the day by outracing a defender to the ball for the goal.
Love said he felt the opening to the second half looked a bit relaxed and lackadaisical, and it showed as the Patriots displayed renewed spirit at a comeback. North Pole got one back on a goal by junior Breeauna O’Rear in the 51st minute. O’Rear batted in a rebound off a corner kick as the ball ricocheted around a few times.