Behind a hat trick from Rhys Cannava, the host Soldotna girls soccer team defeated Kenai Central 4-1 on Tuesday to improve to 5-0-1 in the Peninsula Conference and 8-2-1 overall.
The Stars left senior night knowing they will be the No. 1 seed when the conference tournament kicks off May 20 at Kenai Central.
“That’s what you come into the regular season looking for — the top seed in the conference tournament,” Soldotna girls coach Jimmy Love said. “We’ve also played our best games of the season in our last three or four games.
“At the same time, once you get to the tournament it’s a new season. Anything can happen.”
The SoHi girls honored seniors Sarah Rice, Grace McElroy, Sierra Kuntz, Sonora Martin, Lily Coon and Katie Delker after the game.
Love said the only unfortunate thing was the cold, rainy weather didn’t allow a festive atmosphere to celebrate what the seniors meant to the program. He added he was glad both teams escaped the foul weather without any injuries.
Cannava got the first of her goals 25 minutes into the first half on assists from Bay Bloom and Delker.
A few minutes later, Kylee Verkuilen got the ball out wide to Neveah Olson, who crossed to a strike from Bethany Morris to level the score at 1.
Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen, whose team is 0-4 and 1-8-1, said his team continues to improve.
“We’re getting more offensive pressure,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”
Verkuilen added that Cannava was able to take advantage of structural issues in the center of Kenai’s defense that the Kardinals must fix.
With about nine minutes left in the first half, Cannava struck again on an assist by Jolie Widaman. Love said both of those players were key in the game.
“Rhys definitely was on a mission with three goals,” Love said.
The third came to start the second half, when Cannava wove her way through the center of Kenai’s defense. SoHi finished the scoring when Kuntz took a corner kick and both Bloom and Coon combined to knock it in with their heads.
Soldotna boys 1, Kenai Central 0
The host Stars wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the Peninsula Conference tournament with a tight Tuesday victory over the Kardinals. SoHi moves to 5-0-1 and 7-1-1 overall, while the Kards drop to 2-1-2 and 5-3-2.
Soldotna boys coach Erik Dolphin said earning the top seed is a nice mental boost for his team, and also puts the Stars in the best position to get to state.
The Soldotna boys honored seniors Aidan Culver, Tyler Johnson, Josh Tree, Trenton O’Reagan, Jose Montague, Dylan Walton, Kaden Hoover, Austin Escott, Dennis Taylor and Josh Hieber before the game.
Ty Wackler had the deciding strike for the Stars about 25 minutes into the first half. He took a shot from distance that took a weird deflection off a Kenai defender. Kenai goalie Aidan Milburn couldn’t recover from the unlucky bounce in time.
Other than that, Milburn and Soldotna goalie Gehret Medcoff were able to turn away all the chances that came their way.
“We had a bunch of chances we couldn’t finish,” Dolphin said. “Conversely, we didn’t give up a ton of chances on defense, but the ones we did give up were dangerous.”
Said Kenai coach Shane Lopez: “There definitely could have been goals on both sides. I thought everyone fought hard and played well. It was an exciting game to watch.”
Dolphin said Hieber was all over the field — from defense to forward — while Maleda Denbrock also put in a ton of work trying to keep Kenai’s James Baisden from creating opportunities. He also said defensive midfielders Montague and Walton were key to controlling the pace of the game.
Lopez said Joe Hamilton continued to be a strong leader on defense. He said Hamilton is such a strong leader that he earned the captain’s armband for the second half of the year. The Kenai coach said Shane Lopez also played well in the midfield.
Homer girls softball 22, Kenai Central 14
The visiting Mariners took the lead for good with a sixth-run fourth inning to earn the six-inning Northern Lights Conference victory Tuesday. Homer is 5-3 overall, while the Kardinals are 1-6 overall.
Kenai got off to a good start in the game, leading 3-1 after the first inning, 7-4 after the second inning and 10-7 after the third inning.
Homer then took a 13-10 lead after the fourth, and led 18-13 after the fifth.
Zoe Adkins pitched all six for the Mariners, giving up 14 runs — 12 earned — on 14 hits while walking seven and striking out seven. Caitlin Crabb also went the distance for the Kardinals, giving up 22 runs — 18 earned — on 12 hits while walking 15 and striking out three.
For Homer on offense, Ariana Davis was 3 for 4 with three runs and four RBIs, Grace Godfrey was 2 for 2 with five runs, three RBIs and a home run, Hannah Hatfield was 2 for 4 with three runs, Haylee Owen had two runs, Delilah Harris had two runs, Adkins had two runs, and Sophie Ellison was 2 for 3 with three runs and three RBIs.
For Kenai on offense, Andie Galloway was 3 for 4 with five runs, Kyana Griskevich was 3 for 5, Maggie Granier was 2 for 4 with three RBIs, Zaharah Wilshusen had two runs, Crabb was 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Shelby Burman had two runs.