Playing in their season soccer openers at home, and against bigger competition, the SoHi boys and girls had their hands full with the pesky West Anchorage Eagles.
The Eagles swept into town Friday and snatched up a pair of nonconference victories at Soldotna’s Justin Maile Field. The SoHi girls lost 3-0 before the boys were handed a 5-1 loss.
And, for the second night in a row, West striker Jack Green walked away celebrating a hat trick from the boys game.
“We keep an eye on guys like that,” said Soldotna head coach David Holmes. “We don’t often double up and mark a guy like that.”
Holmes, in his first year as head coach of the SoHi boys, said a 1-0 halftime deficit to the Eagles felt encouraging for a team playing its first competition of the season. West entered the day with three games already under its belt.
“The first half was promising,” he said. “I was seeing the team I know we have, play the game they know how to play.”
However, Green took hold of the game in the second half with three goals in a 13-minute stretch. The speedy striker collected the ball in the goal box just 30 seconds into the second half and delivered a decisive blow past SoHi goaltender Hunter Woodward to forge a 2-0 West lead.
Soldotna grabbed hold of some of its own momentum seven minutes later with a stellar goal by Josh Heiber in the 48th minute, but it didn’t last long. Only a minute after Heiber found space down the left flank of the field and delivered a strike across the goal box, Green answered back on an Eagles corner kick that he just managed to get his head on and redirect into the goal for a 3-1 lead.
Green capped his three-goal night in the 54th minute on a through ball that he carried into the box for a 4-1 West lead. The Eagles got one more in the 76th minute on a scoring strike from Charles Jamie.
SoHi senior goaltender Hunter Woodward faced 14 shots in goal before exiting the game with about 10 minutes left after reopening a stitched-up wound in his hand. Jose Montague took over and saw two shots and allowed one. Overall, West outshot SoHi 16-6.
“A lot of that was just youth,” Holmes explained. “I see some promise, I saw it in the first half and hopefully we can carry it on going forward.”
Holmes added that the trio of Heiber, Alex Montague and Kaleb Swank did well in creating scoring opportunities, but a full team execution is needed to compete against the Anchorage schools.
“They are all really strong guys, but if we’re not getting the support around them, they can’t take on (West) themselves,” he said.
In the girls game, the Eagles broke through a tough midfield battle in the 28th minute with a goal from Annika Colberg, who was just wide enough on a teammate’s cross to get past SoHi freshman goalie Katie Delker.
Jimmy Love said the defensive ability of the team in keeping West at bay for much of the game resided in SoHi’s ability to force the Eagles offside when a run began gathering steam.
“Purposefully or not, I think we got some offside calls in our favor, and that’s not something that we worked on at all,” Love explained.
Delker stopped seven of eight shots on goal for SoHi in the first half, and senior Margarida Mendoca made five saves on seven shots in the second half, subbing in for Delker.
With a slim 1-0 lead at halftime, the second half was the right time for one of West’s most dangerous scorers, Beatrix Brudie, to step up. Brudie got her foot on a through ball in the 55th minute to score for a 2-0 lead. The agile forward collected the ball and battled out a SoHi defender down the right side to deposit it to the left side of the net.
West assistant coach Regina Pierce said the Eagles took heed of some tactical advice given by the coaching staff at halftime, helping them break free from an otherwise close contest.
“Our girls really worked the channels, they were right where they needed to be,” Pierce said.
West sealed the win with a goal from Chloe Austerman in the 68th minute. Austerman received a cross from the deep right goal line and was in position to slip the ball by Mendoca.
Love said a lackadaisical start to the game ultimately allowed the Eagles to take advantage of the Stars.
“We were flat,” he said. “They were playing more physical than we were. We weren’t working the ball up the field as a team, and it’s hard to score when you don’t do that. One person can’t do it all.”
The game also could have turned in SoHi’s favor just five minutes into the second half on a close miss by junior Ryann Cannava. The Stars forward got the ball in West’s goal box but couldn’t convert on the opportunity to score, which would have tied it up.
“I really think if Ryann had finished that one, it would’ve made a more mental difference and the girls would’ve responded differently,” Love said. “But hey, you miss some, and you have to turn around and come back.”