Host Soldotna got to taste some of the best soccer the state has to offer Friday as West Valley came to town.
The Wolfpack, whose girls and boys teams have both been to state in nine of the past 10 years, notched a sweep, with the boys winning 3-2 and the girls storming to a 10-0 victory.
The West Valley girls moved to 5-1 on the year, while the boys squad is 8-0.
Saturday, the Soldotna girls came back with a 6-2 victory against visiting Ketchikan to move to 5-5 overall. The boys lost 3-1 to the Kings to fall to 4-6 overall.
In the Friday boys game, the Stars managed to hang with a team that is expected to factor heavily in the race for the state championship. West Valley was coming off a Wednesday victory over rival Lathrop and a Thursday win in the 79th minute against Dimond in Anchorage.
But SoHi served early notice that Friday would be a test when Alex Montague scored on an assist from Luke Trammell in the eighth minute.
Wolfpack coach Howard Maxwell said that maybe his team was taking the Stars too lightly.
“The first goal was us relaxing,” Maxwell said. “We didn’t communicate because we didn’t think we had to.”
But West Valley battled back when SoHi continuously lost marks on balls coming across the box. In the 19th minute, Joey Vanhorn crossed to Shane Gillette for a goal. Then in the 31st and 36th minutes, a pair of big throw-ins from Ricky Stanton got Michael Dow and Coleman Baxter goals.
“We gave away easy goals, which is more mental focus and not playing ability,” Soldotna coach Darryl Byerley said. “That should stop as we get more mentally mature and hopefully by regions we’ll be ready to go.”
West Valley came out in the first 20 minutes of the second half and dominated possession. But thanks to central defenders Ethan Bott and Gavin Goggia and goalie Chase Miller, the game was still 3-2 entering the final 20 minutes.
That’s when three games in three days may have caught up to the Wolfpack, according to Maxwell.
“I’ve got to tip my hat to them,” the coach said of the Stars. “They kept stepping to the ball hard.”
In the 65th minute, Eli Sheridan fired a free kick on net from outside the box. Goalie Mekhi Omnik made the save, but Ben Godfrey was there to convert the rebound. The Stars and Wolfpack had several good chances the rest of the way, but the score held at 3-2.
Heading into the game, West Valley had given up just two goals this season and scored 23, so Byerley was as happy as one can be with a loss.
“I’m pleased to see we have the components to win at a high level,” he said. “We learned some things. We needed to see a team like this.”
West Valley girls 10, Soldotna 0
The Wolfpack turned in pretty goal after pretty goal to get past the Stars and recover from a 3-1 Thursday loss to Dimond.
West Valley coach John Cadigan said a referee once came up to him and marveled at the speed of his team’s attack. The group didn’t disappoint Friday.
“That’s what they do,” he said. “They do have a good attack.”
The Wolfpack have two seniors signed to play college soccer, and junior Hannah Olsen, who had a hat trick, has designs on playing Division I.
Kiara Simpson added two goals for West Valley, while Karli Steel, Riley Baumgartner, Tarryn Clark, Grace Marks and Kate Baring added tallies. Kaleigh Sparks had the shutout.
Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said he did some research on West Valley and tried to clog the midfield. He said that worked a lot of the time, but the Wolfpack were able to use their speed to play diagonal balls to the corner and create opportunities off that.
With five freshmen on the field, the Stars got to see a high standard of soccer.
“It’s good for anybody,” Love said. “It’s good for freshmen and it’s good for seniors to get an opportunity to see the type of teams you have to beat at state.”
Love said sweeper Talon Hagen did a good job adjusting to a new formation, while Abi Tuttle, Elena Bramante and Meijan Leaf were able to make things happen in the midfield.
“Everyone left it all on the field,” Love said. “That’s all I can ask.”
Soldotna girls 6, Ketchikan 2
Tuttle notched a hat trick as the Stars shook off Friday’s loss.
“It’s always good to come out on top with a win, especially after a loss the day before,” Love said. “Ketchikan’s a solid team that you hope tests your girls and you hope you come out on top.”
Other goals for the Stars came from Elena Bramante on assists from Cameron Blackwell and Tuttle, Journey Miller from Blackwell, and Miller from Tuttle.
Ella Stenga had the win in net.
Love said he focused on the little things in the match — connecting on passes, running off the ball and communicating.
Ketchikan boys 3, Soldotna 1
The visiting Kings held on to take a nonconference contest from the Stars.
Ketchikan took a 2-0 lead in the 60th minute on a header off a throw-in. In the 70th minute, Montague cut it to 2-1 on a breakaway. But with the Stars pushing up and looking for the equalizer, Ketchikan hit on a through ball in the 80th minute.
“It was a tough loss,” Byerley said. “The boys came out and battled hard and controlled a lot of the game. Unfortunately, there were no balls in the net to reflect the possession time.”
The Stars honored seniors Godfrey, Addison Downing and Chase House. Byerley said he would have liked to get the group a win, but he did mention that young players Ben Snow and Cameron Johnson kept developing into varsity players in the contest.