Kenai Central’s Chloe Goldsby and Soldotna’s Anika Jedlicka battle for the ball Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Chloe Goldsby and Soldotna’s Anika Jedlicka battle for the ball Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Monday soccer: Kenai girls, Soldotna boys topple rivals

The Kenai Central girls defeated Soldotna 2-0 and the Stars boys topped the Kardinals 2-1 on Monday in Peninsula Conference action at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna.

The Kards girls are now 5-0-0 in the league and 11-0-0 overall, while the Stars girls are 2-2-0 and 7-4-0. The SoHi boys move to 3-0-1 and 7-2-2, while the Kenai boys are 2-1-2 and 7-3-2.

The Kenai girls stayed perfect with a goal in the first half, a goal in the second half and a shutout from Maddie Malone.

In the 29th minute, Brynnen Hanson swung a dangerous ball right in front of the Soldotna goal and it bounced in off a Soldotna defender. In the 80th minute, Ella Yragui played a long cross to Chloe Grimm, who tracked it down and tucked it into the Soldotna net.

Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen gave credit to Malone for standing tall when needed.

“We had a little breakdown there in the second half for about 10 minutes that allowed them some chances and pressure,” Verkuilen said. “So we talked about that and making sure we don’t have those lapses.

“But for most of the game, we were able to keep kind of steady pressure down there, which is good.”

Soldotna coach Jimmy Love also wrote in a text message that the Kards had more pressure.

“Kenai played a better game than we did tonight,” he wrote. “I did not have the girls ready for the challenge.”

Verkuilen called it a team win, saying everybody played well. The Kards did lose two starters to injury during the game, and the coach credited Tait Cooper for filling in and doing a good job.

The coach also said Hanson caused a lot of problems up front, and Seanna Swanson did a great job in the middle of the defense.

An increasingly cold win raked across the field as the varsity games wore on, but the exciting end to the boys game was enough to make everybody forget the cold.

“I was cold before, but the end of that game got my blood pressure up a bit,” SoHi boys coach Erik Dolphin said.

The two teams have been close all year. April 18, they played to a 1-all tie. April 22, they played to another 1-all tie, but the game went to penalties since it was a tournament, and SoHi won the shootout.

Monday’s affair was tied at 1 until Simon Willets made a penalty kick in stoppage time to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. Willets also had the winning penalty kick against Soldotna in the April 22 match.

“The game-winner not one time, but two times — back-to-back games playing against Kenai,” Dolphin said. “The pressure in that situation is very difficult to deal with.”

The Stars took the lead in the 10th minute in a scrum in the box after a corner kick. Zac Buckbee was able to send the ball to the SoHi goal, and Daniel Heath was able to poke it in.

“I think in the first half, we looked clearly like the better team,” Dolphin said. “And then they killed us in the first five minutes of the second half.”

SoHi goalie Luke Hillyer turned away a volley from Wade James in the final minute of the first half, then Hillyer had to make another nice save on James in the first minute of the second half.

The Stars were able to earn some possession in the second half, but when Kenai had the ball, more dangerous scoring chances resulted.

“I think we had more of the ball if you look at it on a graph or something,” Dolphin said. “But was our possession dangerous? Or was it just possession?”

Dolphin did say not having forward Gehret Medcoff due to injury did alter SoHi’s attack.

In the 72nd minute, James took a penalty kick for Kenai but rung it off the crossbar. Kenai kept coming, and Enrique Mercado sliced through the center of the defense to tie it in the 79th minute.

“We played well and worked hard to tie it,” Kenai coach Shane Lopez said.

Just a minute later, Mercado earned another chance right on the doorstep of Hillyer, but the SoHi goalie turned that one away.

The Stars were seemingly hanging on for dear life until the momentum shifted with the penalty kick.

Dolphin gave credit to central defenders Andrew Cox and Collin Peck for dealing with James and Mercado all game. The coach also said Parker Rose did a good job of tracking Kenai playmaker Aloshia Cross.

Lopez said Mercado did a great job of continuing to press the attack, while Carson Grimm was an engine in the midfield.

Soldotna goalie Luke Hillyer watches as the penalty kick of Kenai Central’s Wade James bounces off the crossbar Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna goalie Luke Hillyer watches as the penalty kick of Kenai Central’s Wade James bounces off the crossbar Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen and Soldotna’s Sadie Lane battle for the ball Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen and Soldotna’s Sadie Lane battle for the ball Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Enrique Mercado and Soldotna’s Johnny Wardas battle for the ball Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Enrique Mercado and Soldotna’s Johnny Wardas battle for the ball Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Ryle Sparks rises for a header Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Ryle Sparks rises for a header Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Sawyer Vann saves the ball in front of Soldotna’s Lane Hillyer on Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Sawyer Vann saves the ball in front of Soldotna’s Lane Hillyer on Monday, May 8, 2023, at Justin Maile Field at Soldotna High School in Soldotna, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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