Soldotna’s fusion of youth and experience blended together Friday afternoon at a sun-splashed Justin Maile Field to produce a 4-2 girls victory over the Palmer Moose and a 3-0 boys triumph, giving the Stars a clean sweep.
Saturday painted a different picture for the Stars, however, as both teams were swept by the visiting Colony Knights. The Colony girls defeated Soldotna 6-1 and the Colony boys topped SoHi 4-1.
Friday’s left the SoHi girls 2-1 overall. The Palmer girls dropped to 0-6 overall.
It took nine minutes before SoHi found the back of the Palmer netting with a flick from Stars senior Abi Tuttle. The crafty veteran struck again at the 26th minute when she intercepted a Palmer pass at midfield and sprinted out a defender into the goalie box to score from about 15 yards out, giving SoHi a 2-0 lead at halftime.
“She knows how to run off the ball, when to make her runs, and she’s smart with the ball at her foot,” said SoHi head coach Jimmy Love. “All of that helps, and she plays well with Whitney (Wortham), and we’re grooming some of the other girls to come in.”
Love said he wanted to see sophomore Haley Buckbee and senior Torri Hensley more involved up front with Wortham and Tuttle, who mostly run the show on scoring opportunities.
The youth of the team got involved in the second half when freshman Ryann Cannava booted in a cross from Tuttle to push the lead to 3-0. Senior Elena Bramante finished off the SoHi scoring for the day just five minutes later on a corner kick from Tuttle.
Love said the underclassman, such as Cannava, Meijan Leaf, Journey Miller and Faith Glassmaker, have helped to fill several vacated holes left by last year’s senior crop.
“We have a handful of (freshmen) them in there, and it fits the mold for everyone,” Love said.
Palmer ruined SoHi goalkeeper Abby Kruse’s perfect sheet in the 52nd minute with a shot by junior Caile Dosser, who beat SoHi defender Sierra Longfellow on a run to the goal. Palmer senior Katie Crowley added a second goal for the Moose with five minutes to play, getting a bouncing ball to go over Kruse’s head for the goal, but it came too little, too late.
Kruse was making only her second varsity start of her career, further adding a positive spark by the inexperienced crew on the team and keeping Love happy with the improvements of his squad.
“It’s amazing, we literally didn’t have a keeper until some of the basketball girls got together and told (Kruse) to come out,” he said. “She had a good game.”
Colony girls 6, Soldotna 1
Facing the team that knocked them out of a spot at the state tournament last spring, the Soldotna girls found trouble on Saturday. The Knights scored midway through the first half to open the scoring and added a second goal a few minutes later.
Love said after an opening 10 minutes of even play, SoHi was unable to solve Colony’s defense.
“They have two fast (defensive) outside backs,” he said.
Trailing 4-0 at halftime, Love said he felt SoHi had an opportunity to rally back from the deficit after scoring first in the second half. Stars freshman Ryann Cannava set up Journey Miller for a goal to pull the gap back to 4-1, but a red card handed out to a SoHi player helped swing the momentum back to Colony’s favor. The card left the Stars with just 10 players on the field.
“I think we just started getting frustrated with each other, we were moving the ball well but couldn’t get a goal on net,” Love said. “I think we just lost sight of our goal there, started chasing the ball, stopped playing the rest of the half.”
Kruse stayed busy in goal for SoHi, putting up at least 16 saves, Love said.
Soldotna boys 3, Palmer 0
The Stars received two goals from junior Eli Sheridan to grab their first win of the year Friday over the Moose.
The weekend left the Stars 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
Coming off a season-opening home loss to Homer earlier in the week, the Stars turned on the pressure early against Palmer, pushing the ball up the field and keeping it in Moose territory. Soldotna finished the game with a 13-5 shots-on-goal advantage.
“I’m much happier with the team than our first effort,” said SoHi head coach Darryl Byerley. “We did a good job going to the ball and possessing, and our shape and formation was good.”
Junior Chase Miller earned the shutout in goal for SoHi with five saves in just his second varsity start of his career, prompting Byerley to sing his praises.
“A blank sheet is always good,” he said.
A tackle on Sheridan in the goal box gave SoHi its first scoring opportunity with a penalty kick in the 13th minute. Sheridan’s shot ricocheted off Palmer goalkeeper Caden Brown’s hands and off the corner of the frame before going in, giving the home team a lead.
Three minutes later, freshman Alex Montague set up Sheridan for another goal with a deep run toward the goal line before turning back and sending a pass up to Sheridan, who slotted it home for a 2-0 lead.
“He got the ball down there and was really patient before sending that cross to Eli,” Byerley said. “I thought our whole midfield was a demonstration in patience.”
A pair of yellow cards highlighted the physical play on field, with Palmer’s Makeehan Knittle being sent off in the 20th minute and Soldotna’s Ethan Bott given the same treatment in the 24th minute.
Bott ended up scoring for SoHi in the 62nd minute, getting a cross from the left corner from junior teammate Luke Trammell.
Colony boys 4, Soldotna 1
A spurt of scoring midway through the first half doomed the Soldotna boys in Saturday’s NLC matchup with Colony at Justin Maile Field.
The Knights caught a break about 30 minutes in when they were awarded a penalty kick, which they converted to take the lead. Colony scored again a few minutes later on a corner kick conversion, then a third time on a defensive breakdown by SoHi, leading to a 3-0 lead at halftime.
Byerley said it all amounted to three goals in about four minutes for Colony.
“It was a well-fought battle, but I didn’t feel the score was reflective of the game,” he said. “Give Colony the credit, they capitalized off opportunities.”
SoHi freshman Alex Montague put the Stars on the board in the second half, but the Knights tallied one more score to ice the contest.