The Soldotna girls and boys soccer teams each took home a second-place trophy at the Division II state tournament at Service High School in Anchorage on Saturday.
The boys fell to Juneau’s Thunder Mountain, 3-2, and the girls dropped a 5-1 decision to Juneau-Douglas.
In the boys game, the Stars found themselves behind Thunder Mountain early, after the Falcons scored just seven minutes into the game.
“The difference in the game was the first 10 minutes,” SoHi coach Erik Dolphin said. “They came up and put a goal in the back of the net … and it kind of took us that, to get back in the game.”
Dolphin said it was the first time the Stars had played Thunder Mountain this season.
“This is a fantastic team, easily one of the best teams we faced all year,” he said.
Thunder Mountain put another goal in the net with 25 minutes left until halftime.
Senior Josh Hieber then scored Soldotna’s first goal, but Thunder Mountain answered with a goal with just six minutes left in the first half, putting Soldotna behind 3-1 going into the second half.
The two teams held each other off for the majority of the second half before Hieber scored Soldotna’s second goal on a penalty kick with under 19 minutes left in the game.
“I have probably one of the best players in the state,” Dolphin said about Hieber. “He scored both goals today, he’s been one of the best players in the tournament, he’s been fantastic to coach.”
Soldotna pressed forward for the equalizer as the game drew to a close, putting more pressure on SoHi’s defense and SoHi goalie Gehret Medcoff, but neither team would score before the final whistle blew.
Dolphin said his seniors will be missed.
“They kind of set the tone for a lot of the young guys, I mean I had two freshmen start on the field … so they’re going to be missed but their impact is going to be felt for years to come,” he said.
Soldotna’s Dylan Walton was awarded player of the game on Saturday.
“We had a fantastic season,” Dolphin said. “Tough ending, but can’t be too mad about it.”
In the girls game, Soldotna repeated a loss to Juneau in the 2019 state final.
Juneau laid on heavy offensive pressure in both halves, with senior Taylor Bentley notching a hat trick. She scored two against the Stars in the first half, and one from a penalty kick in the second half.
SoHi coach Jimmy Love said the team has been working to come back after not being able to play last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everybody’s trying to get their feet back underneath them after being off for a full year, but I’m very thankful that we’re able to be in this spot,” he said.
Soldotna’s Lily Coon scored the only Stars goal during the championship game, sailing it over Juneau’s goalie and into the back of the net with five minutes left in the first half.
Soldotna goalie Sunny Miller saved some shots on goal in the second half, but ultimately the Juneau attack proved to be too much.
Love said saying goodbye to the team’s seniors never gets easier.
“You want to see them go out on a high note, and this is always a little disappointing but, you know, we took home the conference title, which is what got us here,” he said. “We did all the right things except just this one.”
Coon was named the player of the game on Saturday.
Juneau boys 3, Kenai 0
The Crimson Bears won the third-place game Saturday and gained some revenge in the process. Kenai had defeated Juneau in the Division II state championship in 2018 and 2019.
Thunder Mountain girls 2, Homer 0
The Falcons scored twice in the first half to take the third-place game from the Mariners.
“We didn’t come out and play hard in the first half,” Homer coach Mike Tozzo said. “We played well in the second half, but it was too little, too late. We did keep them from any chances in the second half.”
Tozzo said he was proud of his team for bouncing back from losing last season by returning to state this season. He said he’s sad to see the seniors go, but added there are a lot of good, young players coming up.
Soldotna boys 3, Juneau 1
The Stars on Friday advanced to championship.
Soldotna got on the board in the first 20 minutes when Maleda Denbrock deflected in a free kick from Jose Montague.
The game would stay 1-0 until about 20 minutes left, when Josh Hieber scored for SoHi on a penalty kick. About five minutes later, the Crimson Bears cut the gap to 2-1 on a penalty kick of their own.
With about 10 minutes to play, Montague scored on a short corner from Ty Wackler.
“They’re a really good squad,” SoHi coach Erik Dolphin said of Juneau. “I’m glad we were able to get it done.”
Dolphin said goalie Gehret Medcoff came up big on a few saves, while the defense of Aiden Willets, Zac Buckbee and Tyler Johnson held strong. The coach also said Hieber created a lot of chances up front.
Thunder Mountain boys 3, Kenai 1
The Falcons ended the two-year title reign of the Kardinals to advance to the final.
Thunder Mountain was up 1-0 at the half, then stretched the lead to 3-0 in the second half before Leif Lofquist scored on a rebound off of a Koa Diorec shot.
“The guys are disappointed not to be in the final,” Kenai coach Shane Lopez said. “It was a tough game, for sure. We had some people hurting and the guys were giving their all despite the challenges they were facing.”
Lopez said Tucker Vann and River Tomrdle played with a lot of energy in the midfield. The coach also said Wade James stepped up and played a good game in net.
Juneau-Douglas girls 3, Homer 0
The Crimson Bears advanced to the finals by topping the Mariners.
Juneau scored about 20 minutes in, then got two more early in the second half.
Homer coach Mike Tozzo said his team played well in the first half, but he said the second and third goals deflated his team a bit.
“It wasn’t a bad game,” Tozzo said. “We kind of got outmatched a bit, and there’s not much we can do about that.”
The coach said Felicia Weisser had a great game in goal. He also said the defense worked hard in front of her.
Soldotna girls 3, Thunder Mountain 0
The Stars moved to the state championship by shutting out the Falcons.
Friday, Rhys Cannava scored two goals in the first five minutes of the game to get the Stars going. The first was assisted by Jolie Widaman, while the second was assisted by Katie Delker and Bay Bloom.
SoHi coach Jimmy Love said it’s common for a team to let up after getting an early goal, so he was happy his team kept the foot on the gas for a 2-0 lead.
Love said Thunder Mountain settled down after the second goal, but Cannava was able to complete her hat trick with a few minutes left in the first half on an assist from Liberty Miller.
In the second half, Love said Thunder Mountain earned some chances. He said goalie Sunny Miller had a few insane saves to preserve the shutout.