Last month’s 5-1 drubbing in Homer may have left the Soldotna boys feeling a little shortchanged. After all, it was their first game outside and only their second of the year.
Three weeks later, the Stars are looking like a finely-tuned machine.
Josh Hieber scored twice, including the dagger shot with 10 minutes left, and the SoHi boys made off with a 4-2 win over the Homer Mariners Thursday evening at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna, splitting the season series thus far in a tightly matched division race. In what could be a likely Peninsula Conference tournament matchup in two weeks time, SoHi avenged its early-season loss to the Mariners and finally came out on top of a close game after several close losses and near misses this spring.
“It’s nice to get that win,” said SoHi coach Darryl Byerley. “Especially in a close game. It’s good to see us finish out a 3-0 lead.”
The SoHi boys lifted their season record to 2-3 in conference and 5-5 overall, while Homer dropped to 4-2 and 7-2 overall. Homer currently sits second in the standings while SoHi is third.
The boys win capped a Thursday sweep for SoHi, as the girls team blanked the Mariners 2-0.
Homer coach Warren Waldorf called the 5-1 win in April a “fluke”, and said he knew the Stars were a better team than the one that Homer scored five times on in the first half of that game.
“We had won five in a row against (Soldotna),” Waldorf said. “I felt like this one was due.”
In a Tuesday meeting with Kenai, Hieber, a SoHi freshman who already has four scoring hat tricks under his belt this year, was locked down and held scoreless by Kenai’s best defenders. After hearing of that strategy, Waldorf said his tactics were to let his best players challenge SoHi’s best players, with no special orders or assignments.
“I wanted to play them straight up,” Waldorf said. “Just to see how we stack up against them.”
Simon Dye and Charlie Menke scored for Homer. Dye got his on a second-half penalty kick and Menke got his head on a corner kick from Oliver Beck in the dying minutes of the game.
Soldotna staked out a 3-0 lead by halftime, with goals coming from Sam McElroy, Eli Sheridan and Hieber. McElroy opened the scoring seven minutes in on a header off a Sheridan corner kick.
Sheridan then got into the scoring act with a poke into net off a header from Hieber in the 12th minute. Hieber received the ball off a free kick in Homer territory and lasered the ball off his head to Sheridan’s feet for a 2-0 home lead.
Hieber scored at the half-hour mark on a through ball from the midfield, racing up the right sideline and sending a booming shot past Homer goalie Tucker Weston’s weak side.
Byerley credited his midfield for creating the many opportunities for his front line, and said the defense is also coming together well.
“Offense has not been our problem this year,” Byerley said. “It’s been playing front to back, and we haven’t always been able to put it all together.”
Dye almost scored for Homer right out of the box in the second half, beating a SoHi defender in the goal box for a clean shot on Stars goalie Chase Miller, but couldn’t get a shot off before colliding with Miller just four minutes into the half.
Finally, the Mariners found some fortune as Charles Rohr was taken down in the box in the 54th minute by Gavin Goggia, setting up the PK by Dye, who converted to cut the lead to 3-1.
Homer could not find any momentum from there, as SoHi cracked down on its midfield possession and eventually responded with 10 minutes to go on a Hieber goal. Hieber one-timed the ball in on a cross from Luke Trammell.
Menke scored on a header off a corner kick from Beck in the 78th minute, but it came too late for a comeback.
Soldotna girls 2, Homer 0
Down 1-0 at halftime and with the wind now at their backs, the Homer girls were primed for a second-half comeback.
Those hopes were quickly extinguished, however, just four minutes into the second half on a booming shot from SoHi sophomore Journey Miller. The goal capped an otherwise tight game as SoHi picked up a Peninsula Conference victory at home.
“Any win is a good win,” said Stars head coach Jimmy Love. “This is against one of the better teams in the conference.”
SoHi moved to 4-0-1 in conference and 5-1-2 overall, which leads the way in the standings. Homer dropped to 3-1-1 and 3-3-2 overall, second overall. Homer technically stands at 4-1-1 in conference because of a double jeopardy victory over Seward in April.
Junior Paulyne Catacutan began the scoring 22 minutes in with a header off Homer goalkeeper Kelli Bishop’s hands. Bishop had stopped a shot from another SoHi striker but the ball took two ricochets off the crossbar and Bishop’s hands before Catacutan settled it into the net.
Homer head coach Mike Tozzo credited Bishop for a stout effort in net. The sophomore Bishop was making her first varsity appearance in goal in place of junior Ali McCarron, who was ruled out from a medical issue earlier in the week.
“The first 20 minutes we played well,” Tozzo said. “But after that, we didn’t do our job.”
Homer tied SoHi 1-all in the first meeting of the season between the two sides, leading Tozzo to believe his Mariners fell short Thursday.
“Even with the wind, we were only able to get about four or five through-balls,” he said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
With the gusts pulling through Justin Maile Field, Love said it was pertinent for his Stars to play the ball down low at the feet to best the Mariners.
“You have to adjust the style of play when it’s like this,” Love said. “You have to keep the ball to the ground, and we did that.”
Among the rare rocket shots was the one that slipped in at the 44th minute from Miller, who launched the scoring opportunity from about 25 yards out.
“Journey has great range,” gushed Love.
Just two minutes later, Homer had an opportunity to respond, but SoHi goalkeeper Maddie Kindred managed to hold tight with a high save off the crossbar.
Kenai girls 3, Ketchikan 2
The host Kardinals improved to 2-4-1 overall by coming back to defeat the Kings on Thursday in nonconference action.
In the second minute, Julia Hanson got the Kardinals started off right when she converted a cross from Liz Hanson.
But Ketchikan stormed back with a pair of goals in the first half to take the lead.
In the 62nd minute, Kenai drew even when Liz Hanson took a corner kick and Brenna Eubank volleyed it into the left corner.
Then in the 70th minute, Eubank was taken down on top of the 18-yard box and converted the free kick.
Kailey Hamilton made three saves for Kenai, while the Kards forced Ketchikan’s keeper to save nine.
Kardinals coach Dan Verkuilen said the defense was solid and Eubank did a nice job distributing in the midfield.
“We put on quite a bit of pressure,” Verkuilen said. “We did a little better scoring, but we still need work there.
“Everybody played well as a a team and there was a little more passing today.”
Kenai boys 3, Ketchikan 1
The host Kardinals received a hat trick from Zack Tuttle in improving to 10-1 overall by defeating the Kings for a second time this season.
The assists on Tuttle’s goals came from Luke Beiser in the first half, Damien Redder early in the second half and Kevin Ramos midway through the second half.
Ketchikan scored just before the end of the game.
“Ketchikan played hard and passed the ball well,” Kenai coach Joel Reemtsma said. “It was a helpful match for us.”
Nikiski girls 4, Redington 2
The visiting Bulldogs notched their first win of the year in nonconference action at Redington.
Nikiski, now 1-6, received a pair of goals each from Jordyn Stock and America Jeffreys.
Nikiski boys 0, Redington 0
The visiting Bulldogs and Redington played to a tie in nonconference action Thursday. Nikiski is now 0-5-1.
“It was one of those days where you don’t have luck on your side,” Nikiski coach Harrison Deveer said.
The coach said the Bulldogs put a lot of pressure on goal but were not able to finish.