The Kenai Central boys soccer squad made history Thursday by claiming the programs first state tournament victory, a 1-0 triumph over conference opponent Homer.
You would think the Kardinals would be content playing with house money. Not the case.
Kenai coach Joel Reemtsma had his team preparing for what he hoped would be a championship berth, but against a high-powered Dimond Lynx squad, the Kards fell in Friday’s semifinal matchup 3-0.
“I’m pleased, but not satisfied,” Reemtsma said. “We had our eyes on that championship game, and we believed we could win, and I still believe it was doable.”
The loss relegates Kenai to Saturday’s third-place game against Juneau, set for 1:15 p.m. at Bartlett High.
“We were planning on a win,” Reemtsma said.
Colin O’Hare scored a pair of goals in the first half that made the difference for Dimond.
Wren Norwood, a senior co-captain of the team, was named Player of the Game for Kenai, and moments before was substituted off the pitch to a rousing applause from the Kenai faithful in the crowd, a crowd that Reemtsma sent out heartfelt thanks to for their unwavering support.
“It’s extremely important, this is four years in the making,” Norwood said. “I came to this school thinking, my brother (Barry Norwood) was on the team was the last time Kenai went to state, so making history yesterday, it was great.”
Norwood leads the Kards with consistent calls from the goal that keep his team on target and in correct positioning. His guidance was needed big time on Friday.
Dimond struck early, using quick, crisp passing to catch Norwood off guard and slip in a goal in the game’s second minute.
“It’s a good team, that was a great cross to the box,” Norwood said. “That’s really hard to defend, especially since they were making a great run up there. Most of these guys are full-year soccer players, so it’s tough to defend against them.”
O’Hare notched another goal in the 27th minute, using a series of tricky stutter-steps to fool the Kenai defense and send a blast down the middle and into the netting.
Holding a 2-0 lead at halftime, Dimond continued the onslaught on Kenai, getting numerous shots on goal that were being turned away by Norwood time and again. The Lynx peppered the Kenai goalie with shot after shot for over 15 minutes into the second half, but after all that pressure, it was a set play that finally scored. Robert Schock blasted a free kick from 35 yards out that made its way into the net for a third Dimond goal that effectively drained all drama out the match.
“He’s scored like that before in games, so we knew he could do it,” said Dimond coach Barat Killian. “Jack wanted the free kick, and we said, hey let Rob take it, and Jack’s pretty humble about it.”
Killian, whose Lynx will face their crosstown opponents South for the boys title Saturday, said he could not think of a better scenario to present to the team’s 14 outgoing seniors.
“Win or lose, it’s always a tough game,” Killian said. “To have (South) in the championship game, especially for the seniors we have this year, I wouldn’t have scripted it any other way.”
With third place on the line, the Kenai boys are guaranteed to grab their best ever tournament placing in six state attempts.
“If we play the way we played today, we’re going to be looking really good,” Reemtsma said.
Bartlett boys 2, Homer 1, OT
The Mariners lost out in the consolation side of the bracket Friday evening at Eagle River High School, ending their state run on the spot.
The Golden Bears took advantage of the sudden-death format in the third overtime period, the first of two golden-goal periods of five minutes in length. The two periods were preceded by two 10-minute overtime periods that always go the distance, whether or not a team scores.