In their first effort of the season, Homer’s Lady Mariners stayed even with Soldotna’s soccer team for a 3-3 tie Tuesday night.
The home game saw the Mariners up 2-0 at the end of the first half. Laura Inama scored the first goal with an assist from Kappa Reutov early in the first half, followed by a goal from Reutov herself on an assist from Sela Weisser.
But the Stars were not to be trampled over in their second game of the season. Soldotna’s Journey Miller scored in the second half with an assist from Ryann Cannava, and Rhys Cannava also scored with an assist from Meijan Leaf, tying the game up at 2-2.
Homer’s Eve Brau then scored on a penalty kick to give Homer a slight lead, before Soldotna’s Rhys Cannava again scored a goal with minutes left in the game to end in a tie.
Soldotna moved to 0-1-1 overall in the Peninsula Conference after their loss last week to West Anchorage.
“I knew (Coach) Mike (Tozzo’s) team is tough,” Soldotna Coach Jimmy Love said. “… I thought we came out and we possessed the ball well, but we were not finishing in the final third. We weren’t getting our shots off. … Their defense were sticking to our forwards — not giving them a lot of space, not giving them a lot of room — so that was kind of setting us back a little bit.”
Love said he never felt it was time to panic, however.
“They kind of got us sleeping a couple times with their quick forwards,” he said of Homer.
Love said he told his girls to stick with it and work for the game during halftime.
“Hey, if they can score two in the first, we can score two in the second,” he said. “You just have to turn the game around — keep fighting, keep fighting.”
“Anything can happen,” Love continued. “But I tell you what’s not going to happen is if you don’t work, it’s not going to go anywhere.”
Homer Coach Mike Tozzo said he knew going into Tuesday’s game that SoHi would be a major contest for his team, as well as a sort of litmus test for where they stand in the conference this year.
“That game was everything that I thought it would be, actually,” he said. “That’s a really good team over there, and I give them a lot of credit for having the resolve to come back and not give up.”
Tozzo said being up 2-0 at the half, like Homer was Tuesday night, is exactly the position a team wants to be in.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better defensive effort, a better effort at the midfield, a better effort up front, from everybody,” he said. “I mean every single person that got in the game contributed massively to the result.”
While that result isn’t what Tozzo would have preferred, he said it was still a good start to the season for the Homer girls.
“If that’s where we’re at with SoHi, I think we can be proud of that,” he said.
At a practice last week before the team’s opening game, Tozzo gave some insight into what spectators might expect from this season. The program is packed with 31 players this year. His varsity team has five seniors, five juniors and a strong pack of underclassmen, Tozzo said.
“The freshmen and sophomores are super strong,” he said. “Lots of skill in that group, lots of heavy soccer IQ.”
This means the younger players already have a lot of the basic knowledge and understanding of the game and how it’s played, Tozzo said; he doesn’t have to spend time this season getting the younger players up to speed in that regard.
Before Homer tied with Soldotna on Tuesday, Tozzo was looking to the game as one that would test how his team will stack up in the Peninsula Conference this year.
“Until we get proven otherwise, I’m always going to say that the teams to beat are Kenai and SoHi,” he said.
Homer’s program has yet to sweep both Kenai and Soldotna in a season since Tozzo has been at the helm.
“They’re the kind of standard for the conference, and until we’re up ahead of them, that’s the way I feel about the season,” he said.
When two senior players graduated last year, Homer lost its top goal scorer, Raisa Basargin. A major focus of this season is finding someone to fill that gap, Tozzo said.
“So right now we’re trying to find people who want to score,” he said.
Tozzo also noted a few Mariner players to watch this season. Twins and seniors Ali and Brenna McCarron are set to have a strong season, he said, with Ali in the net as an all-conference goalie and Brenna taking the field as a senior midfielder.
“She’s a good director on the field,” Tozzo said. “She understands the game, and she’s not afraid to use her voice.”
Juniors Brau and Daisy Kettle are also ones to watch, both having been on the varsity team since they were freshmen.
Sophomore Jessica Sonnen, younger sister of graduated senior Andi Sonnen, is poised to contribute more this year than she has previously, Tozzo said.
“At the freshman side of things, there’s a handful of them that could, probably by the conference tournament are going to be contributing a lot on varsity,” he said.
The Lady Mariners next take the field tonight in a 6 p.m. home game against North Pole High School.
They’ll go on to also host Joe Redington Jr./Sr. High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, and Seward High School at noon this Saturday.