Kenai Central’s Tait Cooper and Soldotna’s Sadie Lane battle for the ball Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Tait Cooper and Soldotna’s Sadie Lane battle for the ball Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai girls, boys; SoHi boys; Homer girls soccer earn state berths

The Kenai Central girls and boys, Soldotna boys and Homer girls earned Division II state berths Friday at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School.

With four schools at the tournament, a team needed a semifinal victory to get to today’s final and earn the automatic berth to state.

The No. 2 seed Kenai girls topped No. 3 SoHi 1-0, the No. 1 seed Homer girls defeated No. 4 Nikiski 9-0, the No. 2 seed SoHi boys toppled No. 3 Homer 2-1 in overtime, and the No. 1 seed Kardinals boys defeated No. 4 Nikiski 8-0.

Today, the Soldotna and Nikiski girls will battle for third at 10 a.m., the Kenai and Homer girls will battle for the conference title at 2 p.m., the Nikiski and Homer boys will battle for third place at noon and the Kenai and SoHi boys play for the championship at 4 p.m.

The teams in the third-place games still have a chance to make the state tournament by getting selected for at-large berths by the Alaska School Activities Association.

Kenai girls 1, Soldotna 0

Kori Moore scored with just two minutes to play to put the Kardinals into the championship. Kenai moves to 8-5-2 overall, while the Stars fall to 6-7-2.

This was the fourth time the teams played this year. They tied two of those games, while the Kardinals won the other two games by just one goal. The win puts the Kardinals back at state after missing the tournament last year due to not qualifying and in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The winning sequence started with a corner kick by Kylie Verkuilen. Kate Wisnewski headed the ball to Moore for the winner.

That was just the sixth goal scored in the four games the teams have played this season. Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen knew it would be a close one.

“It was so close, that I said at halftime, ‘You have a little bit of wind. That’ll help a little bit,’” Verkuilen said. “I said, ‘The bottom line is it’s 79 minutes of mistakes. Who’s going to do the one thing right?’”

The coach said something broke down on every offensive play in the game until Moore got it right.

“That’s kind of soccer,” Verkuilen said. “It’s a hard game to score.”

Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said he doesn’t know his team’s chances for the at-large berth.

“Our job was to finish this game,” he said. “If there’s an at-large, and we’re lucky enough to grab it, then so be it.”

Love said his team did a lot of things right, but in soccer that can get canceled out by one play.

“I think we played a good game,” he said. “Overall, if you could win the game by stats, we would have won the game hands down in every area.

“But that’s not what wins the game.”

Verkuilen said Maddie Malone made a couple great saves in earning the shutout. He also said Tait Cooper did a great job filling in for Chloe Goldsby. The coach also said Kylie Verkuilen and Wisnewski were solid in the midfield, and Moore and Leah Fallon did a good job up front.

Soldotna boys 2, Homer 1, OT

Brock Poe headed in a free kick from Zac Buckbee four minutes into the first of two 10-minute overtime periods to get the Stars back to the state tournament.

“It was an amazing finish and a great header,” Soldotna coach Erik Dolphin said. “It was clutch in the moment and very emotional on the bench.”

SoHi moves to 6-7-1, while Homer fell to 6-10-1.

The Stars won each of the previous two matchups between the teams by three goals, but Homer coach Adam Diaz has said all year his hardworking team would peak for the conference tournament.

“This is probably, honestly, my favorite team that I’ve ever coached,” Diaz said. “We did the math and out of 1,440 minutes, I personally feel like these guys have never quit. We’ve played all these different teams, and we lost significantly to Southeast teams, and we still didn’t quit.”

The Mariners certainly didn’t quit when SoHi’s Simon Willets put his team up 1-0 on a nice shot from the top of the box in the 29th minute.

“They took it to us the first 20 or 25 minutes of the second half,” Dolphin said. “We’re fortunate the score ended up only tied, because they had opportunities and we had a little luck.”

In the 14th minute of the second half, SoHi goalie Gehret Medcoff charged to the edge of the penalty area to make a save. The ball eventually got to the feet of Owen Pitzman, who rolled it into the empty net.

Just two minutes into the extra session, Homer hit the side post. About four minutes after Poe’s goal, Homer appeared to have equalized but Daniel Heath chased down a ball headed for the goal and cleared it off the line.

In the second 10-minute overtime, Soldotna kept opportunities to a minimum.

“It was nice to battle back from adversity,” Dolphin said. “We were able to retake the lead after giving up a goal. That’s something we’ve had trouble with this season.”

The coach said Zac Buckbee was steady in the midfield, especially at the end of the game when SoHi was trying to keep the ball from Homer. Dolphin also said Quinn Cox continues to grind in the midfield and Poe played well up front.

Diaz said this was a team effort, but added Kaiden Bogie keeps standing out as a freshman right back.

Homer girls 9, Nikiski 0

The Mariners returned to state by moving to 11-4-2 and dropping the Bulldogs to 0-11.

Minadora Reutov and Talia Weisser each had two goals for Homer, while Debbie Weisser, Olivia Glasman, Sela Weisser, Ava Halstead and Lily King added goals. Felicia Weisser had the shutout.

“We do qualify for state, and that’s exciting,” Homer coach Adam Tozzo said. “We also learned a few things we can take away for tomorrow.”

Tozzo said everybody got playing time, and played well.

Kenai boys 8, Nikiski 0

The Kardinals improved to 9-5-2, while the Bulldogs fall to 0-10-1.

William Wilson had a pair of goals for Kenai, while Carnell Gump, Joe Hamilton, Samuel Baisden, Wade James, Sawyer Vann and Cole Langham added tallies.

Gavin Langham got the shutout.

“I’m proud of the guys and the way they handled the game,” Kenai coach Shane Lopez said. “We got to play a lot of guys and it’s always great to qualify for state. They came out today and took care of business.”

Nikiski coach Jeremy Garrett said in a text message that his squad is looking forward to Homer tomorrow and continuing to build on successes.

“It was a great day for soccer and our team played awesome in some stretches of the game,” Garrett texted. “However, in too many stretches we didn’t maintain our assignments and we broke down mentally and physically.”

Soldotna’s Hamilton Hunt rises above the crowd for a header Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna’s Hamilton Hunt rises above the crowd for a header Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Owen Pitzman (front) celebrates a goal against Soldotna on Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Owen Pitzman (front) celebrates a goal against Soldotna on Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski goalie Emma Weeks makes a save on Homer’s Lily King on Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski goalie Emma Weeks makes a save on Homer’s Lily King on Friday, May 20, 2022, at the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament at Nikiski High School in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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