In the final game of the regular season, the Kenai Central and Soldotna girls soccer teams played to a scoreless tie.
Saturday in the championship of the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament at Palmer, tying wasn’t an option.
After playing to a 2-2 draw in regulation, Lara Creighton, assisted by Jamie Bagley, scored five minutes into the first overtime period to give the Kards a 3-2 overtime victory and a first NLC title since 2009.
This came on the heels of a 2-1 overtime victory by the Kards over Wasilla on Friday.
“It was an amazing team victory,” Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen said.
Both the Kards (13-1-2) and the Stars (15-1-1) will move to the state tournament. The teams had met in last year’s NLC title game and SoHi came away the winner.
Creighton also had the lone goal of the first half, putting in an assist from Kylie Morse with a volley. Creighton and Morse both missed a 5-0 loss to SoHi earlier this season with injuries.
Just five minutes into the second half, Miranda Wolfe had the Stars level on assists from Taylor Wilson and Reagan Schoessler.
Then, about 10 minutes later, Wilson was fouled in the box and Wolfe converted the penalty kick.
But with 20 minutes left Sarah Every took a throw-in and the ball ended up with Cori Holmes, who got it to Hannah Drury for the equalizer.
“We really laid on the pressure for the last 12 minutes of the second half, but couldn’t finish it,” Love said.
Verkuilen said goalie Alli Steinbeck had eight saves, with just one coming in the first half.
“The second half was by far better than the first,” Love said. “We’ve run into the same problem all year.
“We just want to play one half and we can’t do that. It’s that simple.”
It was the second overtime game of the tournament for Kenai.
“All the girls played hard and gave what they had,” Verkuilen said. “They had a long region tournament with two overtime games and they really showed up for each other.
“I couldn’t be prouder of a bunch of girls.”
Love said the Stars still have the potential for a run at state, where they have finished third the past three years.
“It’s up to them whether they want to pull themselves together for the next leg or not,” Love said. “I’d like to think they can.
“I still think when we are playing our game we have a good shot to finish up top.”
Colony boys 4, Kenai 1
Early in the match with the Kenai Kardinals trailing, Kenai’s Austin McKee stepped into the box and calmly converted a penalty kick to knot the contest at 1.
And just as the Kards had a chance to pull the momentum their way, a pair of Colony senior captains came through for the Knights. Harrison Menard and Austin Richardson each scored within a 13-minute span of the first half to help the Knights score a 4-1 win over Kenai in the Northern Lights Conference boys title match Saturday evening at Palmer High School.
Menard knocked in a loose ball during the 19th minute, within two minutes of the McKee penalty kick, and Richardson sent a laser from beyond the penalty box during the 32nd minute in a big first half that allowed the Knights to earn their 11th NLC title in the last two decades.
“That goal was huge,” Colony head coach Jeremy Johnson said of the Menard tally. “To respond like that, that’s what a championship team does.”
Menard provided the immediate answer to the penalty kick and Richardson added some pressure on Kards.
Late in the first half, the ball came out from the penalty box to Richardson in the midfield. Richardson blasted a shot just past the fingertips of Kenai’s diving goalkeeper, Wren Norwood.
“It was such a beautiful goal,” Johnson said. “Half volley from a distance, right into the upper corner. A four-year starter to step up like that, it’s really a straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Richardson’s teammates were in awe of the goal.
“I have no words for that shot. It was incredible,” junior Ben Sande said.
Richardson’s blast was the type of shot the Knights knew they’d have to have facing arguably the top goalkeeper in the conference. Norwood was the lone goalkeeper to be named first-team All-NLC this season.
“We understand he’s a really good goalkeeper,” Sande said. “Being more clinical today was the main thing to put them in the back of the net.”
And the Knights were able to get the type of pressure on Norwood they wanted to. Colony outshot Kenai 21-6 in the match.
Kenai coach Joel Reemtsma said the Knights did a great job of attacking to space wide and then sending crosses into the box.
“Wren made save after save, and there were some nice ones,” Reemtsma said after his team fell to 9-5-2.
Sande opened the scoring with a goal during the eighth minute, and also helped set up Colony’s final goal. Early in the second half, Sande took the ball at the left edge of the field, and drove toward Norwood. He sent a pass across the face of the net to set up a Menard shot. Norwood made the save, but Cameron Shaw was able to knock in the rebound.
Kenai finished with only six shots, but had at least two quality opportunities in the second half. Colony senior goalkeeper Zach Zmuda came up big for the Knights with at least two tough stops, including a diving save midway through the frame.
“Zmuda made some timely saves in the second half. They had a few good opportunities and he made some nice saves,” Johnson said. “One would have made it 4-2 at one point.”
Reemtsma said he was happy his team was able to show it could possess the ball and create some opportunities in the second half. He particularly liked some of the combination Chris Hamilton was able to put together with Zack Tuttle at forward.
“Colony was the better side today,” Reemtsma said, adding it was good to see players from Kenai’s past supporting the squad in the stands.
The win gave Colony its 11th NLC title since 1998, and second in the last three years. Since 1998, only one other NLC teams has won multiple titles. Wasilla has won four championships in the last nine years. Soldotna, Grace Christian and Kenai have won a single boys’ title each.
Colony and Kenai move into the state tournament, which starts Thursday in Anchorage. Colony enters the final tournament as the defending state champion. The Knights beat Dimond 3-2 in double-overtime last season to win its second state title in school history.
Homer boys 2, Grace Christian 1
Charles Rohr broke the tie with 11 minutes left in the game and the Mariners held on for third place and a third state berth in the last four years.
Homer coach Warren Waldorf said Kenneth Schneider broke from the midfield carrying two or three Grace players and played a perfect through ball to Rohr.
Rohr went one-on-one with the goalie and the ball hit some bodies, but rolled into the empty net.
“I’m pretty impressed with these kids,” Waldorf said. “I wasn’t sure if they’d have any gas left in the tank.
“They fought hard for 80 minutes and they were able to finish it in regulation.”
Homer played overtime matches Thursday and Friday. Waldorf said five of his players were on the field for 280 minutes in less than 42 hours.
“I think we agreed we won’t train this week and go up to state and see what happens,” Waldorf said. “Two hundred eighty minutes in less than 42 hours is too much.”
Schneider put Homer ahead in the 22nd minute with an unassisted goal, but Grace scored in the 48th minute to tie.
Waldorf said goalie Eric Hill had some key saves, while center backs Drew Brown and Flynn Bloom keyed the defense. Waldorf said this was Bloom’s first game back at defense this season after playing forward for most of the year.
Midfielders Dawson Roberts and Filip Reutov did a good job marking up Grace’s star player.
“Maybe it’s just a special group of kids coming through the last few years,” Waldorf said. “You gotta have the horses. I have a lot of experience. I’ve done this a long time and I guess we kind of hit it off.”
Wasilla girls 7, Colony 0
The Warriors thumped the Knights to earn third place and a berth at state.
The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman provided the report on the Colony-Kenai boys game.
All-Northern Lights Conference
Player of year — Alexa Starr, Wasilla.
First team — Alexa Starr, Wasilla; Miranda Wolfe, Soldotna; Peyton Johnstone, Colony; Alex Ashe, Soldotna; Heidi Perkins, Kenai; Rachel Thompson, Nikiski; Taryn McCubbins, Soldotna; Ally Hull, Wasilla; Hayley Hagen, Grace; Kylie Morse, Kenai; Katie McCall, Palmer; Teyonna Williams, Wasilla; Aspen Daigle, Homer; Sahara Iverson, Colony.
Second team – Alli Steinbeck, Kenai; Sam Draves, Homer; Abi Tuttle, Soldotna; Skylar Shaw, Soldotna; Jodie Richey, Wasilla; Amy Hatter, Grace; Brianna Vollertson, Nikiski; Lydia Phillips, Wasilla; Kaylee Mahler, Colony; Cori Holmes, Kenai; Brice Pavlicek, Colony; Colleen Gamez, Grace; Tiana Lee, Palmer; Avery Parker, Palmer.
Player of Year — Ben Sande, Colony.
First team — Ben Sande, Colony; Josh Beveridge, Grace; Grig Lozko, Wasilla; Austin Richardson, Colony; Wren Norwood, Kenai; Austin McKee, Kenai; Filip Reutov, Homer; Harrison Menard, Colony; Ty Fenton, Soldotna; Jake Forstner, Colony; Carson Dodd, Wasilla; Zack Tuttle, Kenai; Charalambos Asimakopoulos, Soldotna; Cade Johnstone, Colony.
Second team — Cameron Shaw, Colony; Max Dye, Kenai; Kyle Broach, Wasilla; Nikita Antov, Wasilla; Coby Smith, Grace; Kenneth Schneider, Homer; Brandon Banks, Palmer; Robby Sanders, Grace; Josh Houston, Palmer; Kristian Palaniuk, Wasilla; Brett Hintz, Colony; Caleb Wood, Grace; Dawson Roberts, Homer; Daniel Omar Torres Beltran, Kodiak; Artur Kavaliov, Palmer; Dylan Kuntz, Soldotna; Drew Brown, Homer; Jose Cortez, Kodiak; Johnie Burton, Palmer.