The Kenai Central girls and boys soccer teams celebrated senior night by sweeping Soldotna on Friday on an extremely windy afternoon at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.
The Kenai girls won 2-1 to finish second in the Peninsula Conference regular season at 3-2-1 in the league and 7-5-2 overall. The Stars finish third in the league and are 2-3-1 and 6-5-2.
The Kardinals boys also notched a 2-1 victory, getting two goals from junior Wade James. Kenai finishes the regular season first in the league at 6-0 and 8-5-2, while the Stars are second at 4-2 and 5-6-1.
The Kenai girls honored seniors Leah Fallon, Gabriella Tews, Kate Harris, Valerie Villegas and manager Joyce Trenton.
Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen gave credit to Villegas, a captain, for steadying the defense after Bay Bloom, assisted by Morgan Lemm, scored just five minutes into the game. The Stars scored that goal going into the wind.
“I thought that Val did a really nice job as sweeper today after that initial goal,” Verkuilen said. “She really kept her position and made some really nice movement.
“Actually, I thought the whole defense did a really nice job.”
After the Soldotna goal, the Kards began spending more and more time on Soldotna’s end.
In the 33rd minute, Kylie Verkuilen got control of a bouncing ball near the top of the box and boomed a wind-aided shot into the right side of the net.
In the 42nd minute, Kori Moore played the ball in the box and Sarah Baisden got a foot on it, the wind again ushering the ball into the back of the net.
The challenge for the Kardinals in the second half was to hold the lead while going against the wind.
“Moving the ball through that wind is always difficult,” Verkuilen said. “We just talked about solid contacts and using the outside — inside-outside paths, then just pushing it up.”
Kenai goalie Maddie Malone had to handle one extremely difficult, wind-aided shot that she pushed just wide. Other than that, Kenai kept the chances to a minimum.
Soldotna coach Jimmy Love was not happy with his team’s play after the opening goal. That included the second half.
“I think it was just trying to do too much, instead of just playing a simple game,” Love said. “I would have thought we would have taken some shots, but we didn’t do any of that.
“We talked about it, but talk is cheap.”
Kenai boys 2, Soldotna 1
The Kardinals had the wind in the first half and got on the board in the 38th minute when Joe Hamilton played a free kick into the box and Wade James flicked the ball into the goal with his head.
A little past midway of the second half, James shook loose and scored again.
With about seven minutes left in the game, the Stars earned a penalty kick and Zac Buckbee converted, but SoHi could not find the equalizer.
Kenai coach Shane Lopez said Gavin Langham had a great game in goal, but Lopez wanted to focus on the play of seniors Koda Poulin, Sam Baisden and Joe Hamilton.
Lopez said this is the first group he had for their whole high school careers as coach. The coach said the group has experienced everything, from winning a Division II state title as freshmen to losing sophomore season to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been a lot of great memories with these guys and definitely a lot of challenges over these years, seeing them grow into better men and leaders,” Lopez said. “We always emphasize better men first and foremost.
“These are all just great guys that I admire a lot.”
Soldotna coach Erik Dolphin said the wind made for a weird, unpredictable game, but he added some things turned out as expected.
“Before the game, I said we had to score two to win, and they scored two and they won,” he said.
Dolphin said Maleda Denbrock had a great game up front despite drawing a lot of Kenai’s attention, while Buckbee was solid in the midfield.
“They’re a really good team and they’re well-coached,” Dolphin said of Kenai. “They played better than we did and deserved to win.”
Homer girls 3, Houston 0
The host Mariners moved to 10-4-2 overall with a nonconference victory over the Hawks on senior night.
Sela Weisser had a hat trick and Felicia Weisser had the shutout.
The Mariners honored seniors Debbie Weisser, Sela Weisser, Olivia Glasman, Ava Halstead, Maddox Berg, Mariah McGuire and Serena Fankhauser. Kappa Reutov, a constant scoring threat who missed the season with a knee injury, also was honored.
“The seniors are all good kids who lead this team and work really well together,” Homer coach Mike Tozzo said. “They’ve played together a long time.