Both boys and girls teams for the Homer High Mariners lost to Colony on Thursday, May 19, ending the Mariner’s soccer season before reaching states. While the girls lost in a shutout with six points on them, the boys gave Colony a run for the win.
Colony boys 1, Homer 0
The seedings showed the Colony boys as the favorite over Homer on the first day of the Northern Lights Conference soccer tournament. As the top seed from the North division, the Knights were supposed to win easily over the No. 4 South squad Mariners.
Instead, Colony had to sweat out a 1-0 victory over Homer at Justin Maile Field in Soldotna to advance to the semifinals, using a last-minute goal to clinch the victory.
In the final minute of stoppage time, Colony striker Alex Valdez knocked in the goal on a ricochet off Homer goalkeeper Kenzington Cortez.
“We’re not surprised,” said Colony coach Jeremy Johnson. “We played them 2-0 earlier this year, and today we held possession and just had trouble putting shots on their goalkeeper.”
Colony will face Soldotna, the No. 2 seed from the South, today at 1 p.m. in a semifinal meeting at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. SoHi beat Palmer 6-1 Thursday, and earlier in the season defeated Colony 5-2.
Johnson pointed to Homer’s style of counterattacking — which he said reminded him of the newly-crowned English Premier League champions Leicester City — as the tactic that kept his Knights from scoring.
“They play Simon (Dye) up the middle well and (Charles Rohr) just keeps them organized in the back,” Johnson said.
Homer’s sturdy defensive line frustrated the Knights all game long. A rotating core of Jordan Beachy, Marley McGuire, Charles Rohr, Daniel Wiest, Charlie Meinke and Timothy Blakely helped contain the fierce Colony attack, which was led by seniors Ben Sande and Valdez. Colony had several close shaves with the goal, but could not finish as the Knights outshot the Mariners 10-1 in the second half.
Homer coach Warren Waldorf said after a season of experimenting with field positioning among the players, Thursday’s contest featured the most potent Homer squad he could manage.
“Our back line was awesome, but we weren’t going to beat them today,” Waldorf said. “The best team won today.”
Sande launched a shot off the crossbar nine minutes into the second half, then was denied again just a minute later with a header from a corner kick that was snagged by Cortez in midair.
In the 72nd minute, freshman Michael Sliwa was first to a corner kick attempt, but the shot off his left foot clanged off the right post, keeping the game scoreless yet again.
Finally, as the game moved to stoppage time, Colony had its chance. Valdez caught a through ball from the left sideline and sent a shot on goal to Cortez, who deftly blocked it. The rebound was sent off a few players in the goal box before Valdez finally found the ball again and slotted in the game winner.
The ensuing midfield kickoff was silenced almost immediately by the sound of the referee’s whistle.
Waldorf said although he felt his squad came into the tournament primed to compete with any opponent, the season was not a lost venture.
“No way,” he said. “Regret stings, and there’s no way we’re feeling any regret today.”
Colony girls 6, Homer 0
The Knights scored all six of their goals against the Mariners in the first half Thursday in Kenai, punching their ticket to today’s semifinal round against Kenai Central.
Homer coach Mike Tozzo said after suffering a similar loss to Colony earlier in the season, he made a few adjustments in hopes of countering Colony’s attack, and the changes worked with a scoreless second half, but the damage was done in the opening 40 minutes.
“I think if you look at the beginning of the season to the end, I can say with confidence we got better every day,” Tozzo said.
Homer finished 10-6 overall in 2016, something the first-year coach was proud of.
“Overall it was a success,” he said. “We were already talking about next year, about who’s going to go where.”