For senior night against Homer, the Soldotna boys soccer team wanted a victory.
With time running out to seal the win, senior Bailey Jones gave the Stars what they wanted.
Jones headed in a corner kick by junior Dylan Kuntz with less than 10 minutes to spare in a 3-1 victory over the Mariners Wednesday night at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna. Jones directed in the shot from the right corner past Homer goaltender Kenny Cortez to put the Stars ahead. Kuntz added an insurance goal in the dying seconds of the game with a long range blast from about 35 yards out.
“It was about finally working the corners and getting those opportunities,” said Soldotna coach Darryl Byerley. “You get enough of them, eventually something goes.”
Jones usually plays in net for SoHi, a position that he controlled during his time at Skyview High. Tuesday against Seward, coach put Cameron Knowlton in goal for the first time, and Knowlton was again in goal against Homer.
Jones’ go-ahead goal came less than 20 minutes after a somewhat surprising red card was issued to Soldotna junior Sage Hill, who was booked for a midfield collision with Homer’s Dawson Roberts. Barely 60 seconds after the card, Homer scored an equalizer when freshman Charles Rohr caught the SoHi defense off guard on the right wing and sent a shot past Knowlton.
“I think there was a temporary letdown after that adjustment,” Byerley said. “They’re high school players, it’s a moment of panic.”
SoHi improved its season mark to 11-2 overall and 5-0 in the Southern Division. Homer dropped to 4-5-3 overall and 2-3 in the division.
Charalambos Asimakopoulos opened the scoring with a strike in the 37th minute of the first half, collecting a pass off a direct kick and sending the ball past a few players to score and put SoHi up 1-0. Before the goal, both sides started fast and physical, which at one point left SoHi senior Ty Fenton shoeless. Fenton’s shoe came off amidst an aggressive play and he amusingly tossed it aside to the track.
Homer was playing without two key players, as Kenneth Schneider and Flynn Bloom were both out with injuries. But, Homer coach Warren Waldorf was not terribly concerned with the loss, since his squad is already out of contention for the top seed in the division.
“It doesn’t mean a lot,” Waldorf said. “We’re playing for third right now as it is.”
If the Mariners beat Seward in their regular season finale Saturday, it will lock up third place in the NLC southern standings.
Waldorf said he saw the red card as the right call, and the immediate goal as a perfect example of striking while the iron is hot. However, without Schneider and Bloom, Homer was missing just enough firepower to hold on to the tie.
“We had good opportunities today,” Waldorf said. “We’re coming right along.”
The Soldotna seniors that were celebrated before the game included Austin Craig, Jeremy Godfrey, Ryan Walker, Fenton, Jones and Asimakopoulos.
Soldotna girls 7, Homer 0
A dominant showing by the Stars wrapped up senior night for the Soldotna girls team Wednesday evening at Justin Maile Field.
Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said he pulled the seven seniors aside prior to kickoff and instilled the thought they were about to play their final home match. His words of motivation seemed to work.
“I’m much happier,” Love said. “Our ramp up to regions starts today, and we needed to come out and play eighty minutes.”
SoHi kept its perfect season alive to move to 12-0 overall and 5-0 in the division, with only games against Grace Christian and Kenai to play. Saturday’s regular season finale against Kenai (also 5-0) will determined the Southern Division champion and top seed for the region tournament a week later in Palmer. Earlier in the year, SoHi beat Kenai 5-0.
Homer dropped to 4-9-2 overall and 2-3 in the south, keeping the Mariners third in the standings.
SoHi senior Miranda Wolfe started her senior night celebration with a goal in the first 15 minutes, getting assists from Reagan Schoessler and senior Taylor Wilson. Wolfe than assisted on the second goal in the 27th minute, setting up Whitney Wortham with a through ball that put SoHi up 2-0, and senior Alex Ashe notched a third goal with a strike in the 29th minute that was redirected off a Homer defender, catching Homer goalie Sam Draves off guard.
In the second half, SoHi quickly put the game out of reach with three goals in a three-minute span. Wolfe scored on a corner kick from Skylar Shaw in the 52nd minute, Shaw scored two minutes later with a hard boot from about 25 yards out that just made it in under the crossbar, and Abi Tuttle put a nifty move on a defender to score just a minute later. The sequence put Soldotna up 6-0.
“We probably didn’t take as many shots as we should’ve in the first half, and I think they were just holding off for that perfect opportunity,” Love said. “I told them at halftime to not be so scared to pull the trigger every once in a while. That’s what they started doing in the second half.”
Ashe finished the game with a long range strike in the 77th minute that came from nearly 40 yards out.
Homer coach Mickey Todd said he was pleased to see his defense not giving Draves as many shots on goal as the previous meeting between the two teams.
“Our goalie handled the ball a lot less than the last time we played them,” Todd said. “It’s just kind of wait and see for us right now on where we’ll end up (in the standings).”
The SoHi seniors that were recognized after the game included Alex Ashe, Emmalee Johnson, Taryn McCubbins, Bailey Rosin, Skylar Shaw, Wolfe and Wilson.