Even though they didn’t get to keep it all to themselves, the Homer boys soccer squad took third-place honors at the Alaska state soccer championships Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The Mariners ended in a 1-1 tie with South Anchorage after 80 minutes of action, although they led by a goal for most of the match. Due to time constraints, the Alaska School Activities Association does not allow the final day games to go into overtime or penalty kicks (except for the two championship matches), meaning Homer and South are co-holders of third place.
“That’s a team best, we raised the bar and we’re happy with that,” said Homer coach Warren Waldorf. “It’s a great accomplishment, I did not see that coming this year.”
It marks the best result at the state soccer tournament for a Homer boys squad, bettering the fourth-place finish the 2012 team managed. Homer also won the sportsmanship award, while Quinn Daugharty and Max Mangue were on the state all-tourney team.
Perhaps the most telling stat that Homer produced was the goals allowed. Combining the three games Homer played against Service, Colony and South, the Mariners gave up only three goals total, further demonstrating the defensive fortitude of the team.
“That’s what I said two weeks ago, I said I think we’re within a goal of any team in the state,” Waldorf said. “That proved out to be true. I wasn’t really sure of that but it proved to be true.”
Waldorf praised the defensive efforts of Filip Reutov and Drew Brown, who played patiently and disciplined in the back line. Homer also had help from a returning Kenneth Schneider, who was back on the field after losing time to a hamstring injury.
Early in the game, South put the pressure on Homer with a number of offensive runs downfield, but none were able to crack the Homer wall of defense.
Slowly but surely, the Mariners fought back and in the 34th minute, Flynn Bloom chanced a long-range missile shot from about 30 yards out that caught South’s goalie off guard.
“The wind did something to that ball,” Waldorf said. “Good things come when you put the ball on frame, and that’s what happened there. It must have changed the trajectory some, because the goalkeep went up to punch it and it came down lower and sooner than he thought.”
Holding a 1-0 lead into the second half, Homer held steady, even through a few uneasy moments, such as a diving stop by Homer goalie Brian Rowe in the 57th minute that could have easily been an equalizer by South.
South coach Mike Montgomery said he was missing six starters who were not playing due to injuries, but that resulted in only a couple changes in positions, which South was capable of doing with a full bench.
With four minutes left in the game, South got its chance. Wesley Chien made a move in the goalie box and collided hard with Rowe, who was charged with the foul.
Chien was awarded a penalty kick and converted successfully to tie it up in the 77th minute.
“They smashed into each other and you can either call it or not call it,” Montgomery said. “It was a coin toss.”
Waldorf remained indifferent to the call.
“The South coach told me that his opinion was that it wasn’t a PK,” Waldorf said. “The official called it, but we had a chance down there and we missed. Had we executed on one of those chances, it would’ve been 2-0.
“As it was, the referee gave them a PK and that’s his business.”
Waldorf admitted that Homer could have even lost it outright after a couple of close shaves in the final minutes.
With many of the players graduating this year, Waldorf said it will be a challenge to return to the state tournament in consecutive years, but he’s up to the challenge. Of the 18 players listed on Homer’s roster, 10 are seniors.
Colony boys 1, Homer 0
A day after the energy and exuberance lifted the Homer boys to a 3-1 upset win over Service, the Mariners were brought back down with a 1-0 loss to Colony in Friday’s state soccer semifinals at Anchorage Football Stadium, sending Homer to the third-place game.
“They were better than we were today,” conceded Homer coach Warren Waldorf. “We didn’t create too many good chances today. But you never know, it doesn’t take us too long to score, either.”
Colony, which defeated Dimond 3-2 for the state title, put more shots on goal than Homer with a 21-2 advantage, and took nine corner kicks to Homer’s zero.
But with all the pressure on Homer goalie Rowe and his defensive line, it wasn’t until the second minute of the second half that the Knights scored. Chris Olsen received a corner kick near the left post of the Homer goal and guided it in for the lone goal of the match.
“I guess everybody was a little surprised that Homer was able to beat Service (on Thursday),” said Colony coach Jeremy Johnson. “It’s always different in the playoffs, everybody tightens it up and plays differently, and there’s always factors like injuries during the season that you don’t always see.”
Waldorf said he didn’t believe the loss was a letdown after Thursday’s impressive win, but said he also didn’t believe his squad showed its best colors on Friday.
“We don’t have a whole lot of room to get down on ourselves,” Waldorf said. “So what, we’re in the third-place game? That’s good, we’ll see someone new.”
The starkest example of how much more power Colony was working with was in the pregame ceremonies, as all starting players were introduced to the crowd midfield. With all 11 players out on the field, Colony still had a bench full of players, whereas Homer’s bench was nearly devoid of people.
“All the credit’s to the kids,” Waldorf said. “Defensively, they played very well, and that’s why we’re here. We’re dangerous, it doesn’t take us very long to score and we have a good defense.”
Colony started fast, getting several looks on the Homer net. In the ninth minute, Kyle Bolam took a shot that was initially batted down by Rowe, but nearly trickled in behind him at the left goalpost.
Bolam again had a chance in the 35th minute, getting a cross from a teammate and nearly knocking it in.
“We felt like we created a lot of chances,” Johnson said. “I think their goalie made some nice saves, we missed a few, and again, credit to their defense.”
Homer found its chances as well, as Daugharty found space behind the Colony defensive line and nearly missed on the left goalpost. Ultimately, the first half ended scoreless but with an 8-1 shots advantage belonging to Colony.
“You press the kids up that have had the most success for us,” Waldorf said about the final minutes. “It just didn’t happen for us. Colony has a lot of experience, and it’s tough to break through that.”