After a mental breakdown last Friday nearly cost the Soldotna boys soccer team in a 2-1 win over East Anchorage, head coach Darryl Byerley made sure his Stars squad handled the post-goal moments better the next time around.
“The first five minutes after a goal is when you’re most likely to get scored on,” Byerley said Tuesday evening at Soldotna High School.
The Stars learned their lesson and roared to a 7-1 victory over Northern Lights Conference opponent Nikiski on SoHi’s home turf Tuesday. The win will not be the result that goes into region tournament seeding at the end of the season, as the second of two games played between each opponents will decide matters.
SoHi senior Dylan Kuntz notched two goals to lead the Stars, while five other players scored in a balanced offensive attack.
After sophomore Eli Sheridan opened the scoring six minutes in with a series of quick passes between him and Kuntz, the Stars refocused and struck, netting again before 60 seconds were gone.
“After the East game, I had the lesson drilled in them,” Byerley said.
Shortly after the first post-goal kickoff, Kuntz corralled the ball and attacked from the right side for a quick 2-0 lead.
The quick attacks came again in the 16th and 17th minutes, when Eric Mayoral and Andrew Hammond reeled off two goals each in the span of a minute to put SoHi up 4-0.
Kuntz added his second of the night with a slick sequence of dribbling into the goalie box that caught Nikiski goalie Dylan Broussard off guard and put the lead at five goals.
“It turned out a lot better than I thought,” Kuntz said about the strike.
Johnny Smithwick scored at the 30-minute mark to put the Stars up 6-0 by halftime. Smithwick nearly lost the ball out of bounds at the goalie baseline, but managed to collect it back up and swing his leg in and around the post and Broussard for the score.
Johnny teamed with older brother Timmy and fellow former Cook Inlet Academy player Andrew Hammond to produce numerous chances early in the game. Kuntz, a four-year player with SoHi, said the influx of talent from nearby CIA has gone a long way in the early weeks of the season.
“We’ve been wanting them to play here for a few years,” Kuntz said with a smile. “We wished they’d come earlier.”
The Bulldogs’ lone goal of the evening came 22 minutes into the second half when Hunter Holloway took advantage of the ball bounding around in the box to deliver a strike into the netting past SoHi goalie Blake Jones for the score. Jones shared the goal with Drew Kant over the course of the game.
Ben Godfrey added the final tally in the final two minutes of play.
SoHi will receive a good test of games this week with dates against Kenai, South and West Anchorage on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Soldotna girls 7, Nikiski 0
Coming off just their fourth regular-season loss in the last six years, the SoHi girls were back to their old ways Tuesday at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna.
All seven goals came courtesy of two former Kenai Central players, Averie Smith and Abi Tuttle. Smith notched a hat trick by the 57th minute and Tuttle had her hat trick plus one by the 63rd minute.
“I’ve been taking so many shots (on goal) but I was missing a lot too,” Tuttle said. “Eventually I think it had to happen.”
Tuttle said she recounts at least two other times in her prep career that she’s recorded a hat trick of goals, but for Smith, it was the first time.
The junior duo provided many memorable moments on offense for SoHi on Tuesday, but it was Nikiski’s defense that kept the Stars grounded in the opening 16 minutes of play. A stubborn back line composed of Avery Kornstad, Melanie Sexton, Hannah Love and goalkeeper Brianna Vollertsen held under multiple attacks, but the Stars eventually broke through.
Tuttle opened the scoring with a shot about 20 yards out from the middle, making good on a long sequence of bounces in front of the net that came agonizingly close to going in.
Smith got her first score of the game at the 33-minute mark with an assist from Tuttle, who set up the goal on a cross pass from the left corner and Smith tapped it in.
Tuttle sent the Stars into halftime with a 3-0 lead on another shot from the left that went in from 25 yards out.
“We did better than the East game,” said Soldotna coach Jimmy Love.
The Stars lost 3-0 to East Anchorage on Friday to drop their first game of the season.
“We came out playing our own style,” Love added. “We like to possess and look for open lanes to take our shots.”
Marlayna Saavedra and Trenity Griffin combined for the shutout in goal for SoHi. Maddie Kindred, SoHi’s starting goalie, was out due to injury.
With a number of players getting accustomed to different roles due to various other injuries, Tuttle said the experience was important to test out new players on the team.
“I thought this was a good game to get us ready for a big week against Kenai and South,” Tuttle said. “We stacked our midfield and forward positions today.”
Tuttle provided another assist for Smith 16 minutes into the second half, and Smith completed her hat trick just a minute later with a deep ball into the goal box. Tuttle finished her day off with goals in the 63rd and 79th minutes of play, getting another assist from Smith on the final strike with a clean shot.