The finals of the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament today at Soldotna High School will feature the Kenai girls vs. Homer at 2 p.m. and the Soldotna boys vs. Kenai at 4 p.m.
The Kardinals girls, the No. 1 seed, defeated No. 4 Nikiski 6-0 as Kenai moved to 15-0-0 and Nikiski dropped to 3-8-1. The Homer girls, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 2 Soldotna 2-1 as the Mariners moved to 6-9-1 and the Stars dropped to 9-5-0.
The Soldotna boys, the No. 1 seed, took a forfeit from No. 4 Nikiski when the Bulldogs didn’t have enough players. The Stars are 9-2-3 while the Bulldogs are 1-9-0. The Kenai boys, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 3 Homer 1-0 as the Kards moved to 9-4-3 and the Mariners dropped to 4-8-3.
The Kenai and Homer girls, and Soldotna and Kenai boys, all earned automatic berths to the Division II state soccer tournament. The SoHi boys earned a third straight state berth with the forfeit win.
The other squads are still eligible for at-large berths. The Nikiski and Soldotna girls meet at 10 a.m. today for third place, while the Homer and Nikiski boys play at noon.
Kenai girls 6, Nikiski 0
The Kardinals qualified for state for the eighth time in the last nine tournaments as Maddie Malone earned the shutout in net.
The Kards went up 4-0 at the half. In the eighth minute, Kylee Verkuilen assisted Kate Wisnewski. A minute later, Verkuilen played the ball to Chloe Goldsby, who crossed to a volley finish by Rylie Sparks.
Just three minutes later, a Goldsby cross bounced into the goal off a Nikiski defender. Tait Cooper finished the first half scoring on an assist from Brynnen Hanson.
The second half goals were from Verkuilen and Kori Moore and were unassisted.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said he was able to rest his starters for about half the game, but the coach also gave Nikiski credit for a strong effort.
Emma Weeks played in the net for the Bulldogs. Nikiski coach Angie Coelho wrote in a text message the Bulldogs created some scoring opportunities but couldn’t convert.
“We’ve been focusing on bulking up our defense, and we’ll carry that into next season as well,” Coelho wrote.
The coach also was impressed with the speed and first touch of Alexa Iyatunguk.
“She started late in the season, but I’m looking forward to having her back next year,” Coelho wrote.
Kenai boys 1, Homer 0
The Kardinals will be appearing in their eighth straight state tournament after notching the game-winner in the 75th minute.
Trae Pitsch played a corner kick to the far corner to Sawyer Vann, who headed it in.
Kenai coach Shane Lopez said his squad was able to overcome an incredible game by Homer goalie Walden Kraszeski.
“I appreciate the guys,” Lopez said. “They stuck to the game plan. They kept putting in challenges and opportunities and didn’t get frustrated.
“It’s easy to feel like it’s not your night when he’s making save after save after save.”
Both Lopez and Homer coach Adam Diaz agreed that Kenai had the bulk of the possession in the Kenai attacking half of the field.
But Homer was able to counterattack, and Lopez gave credit to Daniel Shelden, Landen Cialek and Dakota Wisnewski for being ready on defense. Ezekiel Yragui had the shutout.
Lopez said the whole team had a great game, but that Aloshia Cross did a great job building through the midfield, and Wade James created a lot of chances up top.
“Homer always battles,” Lopez said. “They always come to play.”
Diaz didn’t have any complaints about his team.
“I would say that was the best game I’ve ever seen these guys play,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Diaz also gave credit to Kenai for sticking with its plan.
“We brought what we could today,” he said. “I think it was a really even match. It could have went either way. It’s just who could finish in those crucial minutes.”
Diaz said he selected what positions the players would play early in the season and stuck with it. Even though Lucas Story also is a great goalie, Diaz said playing Kraszeski all year paid off Friday.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to coach these guys,” Diaz said. “They are a reflection of what me and my assistant coach are trying to do with the guys down in Homer.”
Homer girls 2, Soldotna 1
The Mariners qualified for their fourth straight state tournament by doubling their scoring output of the two losses to SoHi this season.
“We just took awhile this season to figure out who we are,” Homer coach Mike Tozzo said. “It took us awhile to string two good halves together in a row.”
May 9, Homer was leading Soldotna 1-0 at the half, but ended up losing 3-1.
This time, the Mariners went up 2-0 at the half. In the 29th minute, Minadora Reutov scored on an assist from Talia Weisser. In the 37th minute, Katelyn Marroquin scored on a Reutov assist.
In the second half, Homer goalie Felicia Weisser kept the Stars off the board until just seconds remained.
SoHi earned a penalty kick and Weisser saved Morgan Lemm’s original shot, but Jazzalynn McDonald put in the rebound.
“It just bounced the wrong way,” Tozzo said. “If there wasn’t 20 seconds left, I would have been more worried.”
Tozzo said this was a true team win. He said he didn’t plan on subbing as much as he did.
“Everybody did a really great job,” he said. “I’m so proud of them.”