The Kenai Central boys soccer team booked a spot at the state tournament and a date in the Northern Lights Conference tournament final by defeating Soldotna 5-0 on Friday at Colony High School.
For the third straight season, the Colony and Kenai boys will play for the crown, with first touch coming 4 p.m. at Colony. The Knights won two years ago, while the Kards won last season. Kenai defeated Colony 2-1 in mid-April.
“Colony is clever and athletic and this is a bit of a rivalry,” said Kenai coach Joel Reemtsma, who has been at the helm for three seasons. “This is the tiebreaker, if you will.”
While the Kards are in the state tournament for the third straight season, the rest of the Kenai Peninsula sides will have to win third-place games today to extend their seasons.
In the other boys semifinal, Colony defeated Homer 2-0, setting up a third-place match between the Mariners and Stars at noon today.
In the girls semifinals, Wasilla defeated Soldotna 5-1 and Colony topped Kenai 1-0. The Warriors will look to defend their conference title at 2 p.m., while the Kardinals and Stars will battle for a state berth at 10 a.m.
Kenai boys 5, Soldotna 0
Kenai junior Zack Tuttle was named the NLC MVP before the game, and he went out and scored four goals to celebrate as the Kardinals went to 3-0 in the season series with the Stars.
“It was kind of an exclamation point on letting everyone know it was deserved,” Reemtsma said of Tuttle’s MVP.
Tuttle got to work early, scoring on a long ball from Max Dye just two minutes into the contest. Eight minutes later, Tuttle made it 2-0 when his header finished off a Chase Gillies cross to the far post.
Then, just before half, Tuttle finished off a first-half hat trick with an unassisted strike to the near post.
“It was a bit back and forth to start the second half,” Reemtsma said. “Give SoHi credit. They came out and played hard and created a few opportunities.”
But halfway through the second half, Gillies tracked down a ball on a counterattack and scored from 20 yards out. This is just Gillies’ first year of soccer, but the quarterback for Kenai’s football team is making his presence felt with a goal Thursday and a goal and assist against the Stars.
“Being a quarterback helps him with vision and calm,” Reemtsma said. “The trouble for young players and first-year players is they have to fight that panic. He just uses his athleticism.”
The final goal of the game came when Luke Beiser made a run through the midfield and beat several players before finding his brother, Nate, who flicked it to Tuttle for the finish.
Goalie Tristan Landry delivered the shutout for Kenai — the first time the Stars had been shut out all season. Reemtsma said Landry and central defenders Dye and Braydon Goodman really wanted the shutout after allowing a goal against Palmer on Thursday.
Soldotna coach Darryl Byerley said the loss was tough considering all the emotions at play in the Kenai-Soldotna rivalry. The coach said the Stars were down to three players on the bench.
“The boys played hard, they just didn’t have anything there to come back with,” Byerley said. “We’ll regroup and meet Homer tomorrow.”
The coach said the score did not reflect the good work by Chase Miller in net and Gavin Goggia and Ethan Bott at central defense.
Colony girls 1, Kenai 0
The Knights, the No. 1 seed from the north, scored 20 minutes into the game and made it stand up to earn a state berth and a spot in the championship.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said the game was pretty even in the first half, with Kenai’s big chance coming on a head ball by Lara Creighton that hit the outside of the post.
But Verkuilen said the Knights, who also beat Kenai in the regular season, began to win the possession battle in the second half.
“Just not having a lot of depth, and those guys having subs, we started dragging more and not going to the ball as hard,” Verkuilen said.
But Verkuilen said Kenai goalie Kailey Hamilton and defenders Alissa Maw, Mikaela Pitsch, Brenna Eubank and Rebecca Miller did a good job keeping the Knights off the board.
That gave Kenai time to take a few cracks at the equalizer. In the 65th minute, Creighton whistled a 35-yard shot just past the top corner of the goal. About 10 minutes later, Eubank forced the Colony goalie to make a diving save to preserve the tie.
Now the Kardinals have to rest up quick to take on the Stars.
“It’s fun,” Verkuilen said. “It’s a quick turnaround. We’ll get them watered up and their legs up. We don’t have a lot of hours before we have to be on the field. It’ll be a challenge with a small side, but I think it will be a fun game.”
Wasilla girls 5, Soldotna 1
The Stars, the No. 1 seed from the south, could not make an early burst of success stand up enough to win them the game.
In the 20th minute, Abi Tuttle gave the Stars a 1-0 lead off of a direct kick. But before that, in the first five minutes of the game, Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said both Meijan Leaf and Tuttle had good scoring chances that just missed.
“If you add those two goals, it would have been a whole different game,” Love said.
After going down, the Warriors began to assert control, leading 3-1 at the half. But unlike in the regular-season loss to Wasilla, the Stars kept fighting hard after half.
“We played them much tougher this game than in the last game,” Love said. “Even though we were down, we did not give up.
“I’m happy with the way we finished the game as opposed to last time. Wasilla ended up being the better team today and the deeper team today, but our girls played hard.”
Tuttle left the game with an injury, but Love said she could have returned and will be ready to go against the Kardinals.
“I don’t care about the rivalry, this is for a state bid,” Love said. “The same thing applies — we need to come out and play our game and work hard. If we come up short, we come up short.”
Colony boys 2, Homer 0
The Knights, No. 1 from the north, shut out the Mariners, No. 2 from the south, but Homer coach Warren Waldorf was not about to call the game a loss.
“We picked up a lot of confidence from this game,” Waldorf said. “We moved a lot of players around and they stepped up and played our plan.
“We’re now a different team. If we would get through to state, we would deserve to be there. We can now compete with those teams.”
Colony took a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, then scored on a penalty kick with about one minute left.
Waldorf said the Knights had more opportunities than his side, but that Homer played the underdog role perfectly.
“You just have to keep them from scoring, then make your one or two,” Waldorf said. “That’s how you play a close game.”
Daniel Reutov, playing left back, probably had the best scoring opportunity, missing a 25-yard missile by just 18 inches in the first half. Waldorf said Reutov played a great game.