Kenai boys, Homer girls move to state soccer semis

The Kenai Central boys soccer team moved to the semifinals of the Division II state soccer tournament with a 1-0 victory over Ketchikan on Thursday at Eagle River.

The Kardinals won their fifth straight to move to 10-5-2 overall. Kenai faces No. 1 seed Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kale today at 3 p.m. at Service for a spot in the championship game. The teams have not played this season.

The Kardinals and Kings tied 0-0 earlier this season. Thursday, they nearly played a full regulation game without scoring again.

In stoppage time in the second half, Wade James scored on a corner kick from Enrique Mercado to secure the victory for the Peninsula Conference champions.

“We were certainly fortunate to come out with the win,” Kenai coach Shane Lopez said. “The guys carried forth some belief from last week.

“They definitely had some urgency to get that goal at the end and they did.”

For a low-scoring game, Lopez said the play had a fast pace. The coach said Gavin Langham made some great saves.

“It was a really good game,” Lopez said. “Ketchikan definitely had some chances. Gavin definitely kept us in it. We also had chances and opportunities.”

Lopez said the back line of Koda Poulin, Landen Cialek, Bridger Beck and Ky Calvert is a big reason Kenai is moving on.

Homer girls 1, Kenai Central 0

With 15 minutes to play, Ava Halstead played a ball into the box and it bounded in off a Kenai defender to decide the game between the Peninsula Conference rivals.

Homer, the No. 3 seed, is now 12-5-2 overall, while the Kardinals, the No. 6 seed, are 9-6-2.

The Mariners will play Grace Christian, 2-1 winners over Soldotna, in the semifinals today at 1 p.m. at West Anchorage. Kenai and Soldotna will play at 9 a.m. at West Anchorage in the fourth-place semifinals.

Kenai and Homer know each other well. Homer defeated Kenai 1-0 and 2-0 during the regular season, while the Kardinals topped the Mariners 1-0 in overtime for the Peninsula Conference title.

Thursday’s game was again close.

“We’ve always been pretty evenly matched, and that’s how this game was,” Homer coach Mike Tozzo said. “It was back and forth the whole game until somebody made a mistake.”

Felicia Weisser had the shutout for Homer. Tozzo said Mariah McGuire did a good job in the back line covering for a few players who were injured at the last minute. The coach also said Debbie Weisser had a great game in midfield, and Minadora Reutov was solid shuttling back between playing striker and in the midfield.

Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen also said the difference between the two teams is small. He said Kylie Verkuilen had a shot that Felicia Weisser got a hand on, then the ball went off the post.

“I think everybody played strong and gave everything they had,” he said. “It felt good. You’d hate to go to state and walk away not having given your best.”

He said Verkuilen was good in the midfield, Kate Wisnewski was solid on defense and Kori Moore showed grit up front. The coach also said Chloe Goldsby made a successful return from an ankle injury.

Coach Verkuilen said the positive thing is he has a young team which got a lot of good state experience.

Grace Christian 2, Soldotna 1

The Grizzlies topped the Stars (7-8-2) for the second time this season.

Grace led 1-0 at the half, then took a 2-0 lead with 25 minutes left on a somewhat controversial goal. Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said the controversy was whether the Grace player had used a hand to control the ball before scoring.

“That definitely took the wind out of our sails,” Love said.

With about 12 minutes left, Jolie Widaman cut the lead to 2-1 on a free kick.

“All of a sudden we found a sense of urgency and pressed and pressed,” Love said. “We couldn’t find the legs. They were spent, and so was Grace. It was a tough battle.”

Love said it was very hot for the game. He subbed more than normal, but the heat still had an effect.

“As a whole, the girls came out for at least 70 to 75 minutes and did what we wanted them to do for the most part,” Love said. “That includes the bench players who came in and played some good minutes.”

Love said Sunny Miller had a nice game in goal, preventing scoring opportunities and even a few goals.

Juneau-Douglas boys 5, Soldotna 0

The Stars, the No. 8 seed, dropped to 6-8-1 overall with a loss to the top-seeded Crimson Bears at West Anchorage.

Soldotna coach Erik Dolphin said his squad gave up a goal early on a mistake, then played solid for 25 minutes. The Crimson Bears then took advantage of another mistake for a goal, and Dolphin said his team kind of fell apart after that.

“The effort and energy wasn’t there for a full 80 minutes and that’s kind of a disappointment,” Dolphin said.

He said goalie Gehret Medcoff played a great game and kept the score from being worse.

Dolphin said the bright side is he was able to get a lot of freshmen and sophomores experience going against the top-seeded team in a state environment.

Soldotna will play No. 4 Ketchikan today at 11 a.m. at Service for the right to play in the fourth-sixth place game. The Stars lost to the Kings 2-1 this season.

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