After 40 unproductive minutes Thursday morning in the opening round of the state high school soccer championships, the Soldotna High girls wiped the slate clean.
Then they wiped out a one-goal deficit and Grace Christian.
The second-seeded Stars used goals from Kylee Wolfe and Miranda Wolfe in a dominating second half to register a 2-1 victory at Chugiak's Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium and advance to a semifinal match-up Friday against West Valley at Dimond's Alumni Field.
Soldotna played with vastly more precision and cohesion in the second 40 minutes to overcome a first-half performance plagued by tentative play and a lack of unity. Those latter shortcomings have been Soldotna's tendency as state, said coach Jimmy Love.
"We've been trying to figure that out going on four years,'' he said. "We win region, and I think the girls are just happy to be at state.
"We just have to get them to the stage they know they can compete. The second half was how we can play.''
In another opening-round match, West Valley scored twice in overtime to turn back Kenai 3-1. Also, top-seeded Dimond used three first-half strikes to dispatch fellow Cook Inlet Conference member Service 3-0. And South used Kayla Sims' hat trick to rack a 4-2 win over Juneau and advance to a semifinal against Dimond in a rematch of last Saturday's CIC championship game, which Dimond won 1-0 on penalty kicks.
Soldotna fell behind 1-0 to seventh-seeded Grace Christian, which used Madison Lash's booming, low strike from the right side to open the scoring in the 13th minute. The Grizzlies kept the Stars at bay in the opening 40 minutes in part because freshman midfielder Laura Asplund played nearly flawlessly, continually rebuffing Soldotna's attack and kick-starting the counter-attack with smooth, accurate passes.
Halftime served as the break the Stars needed, if for nothing else, to regroup and compose themselves.
"It did wonders for us,'' said McCubbins, a freshman.
Wolfe, a sophomore, furnished the Stars with the equalizer on a fantastic free kick she took at the last moment after Love decided to have her take it instead of a teammate. With the ball positioned in midfield at the 18-yard line, Wolfe rocketed her goal into the top right corner of the net. The Stars won that free kick with Asplund temporarily off for a substitution because of a leg injury.
Miranda Wolfe, a freshman, bagged the game-winning goal six minutes later, in the 67th minute, off passes from McCubbins and Julie Litchfield. Litchfield fed McCubbins in the center of the field and McCubbins immediately chipped a pass left to Miranda Wolfe, who fired into an open net.
Dimond 3, Service 0
Ariela Lewis struck twice in the first half, with the first of her goals coming off a splendid assist from Lizzy Gogolowski, and Gogolowski also scored in the opening 40 minutes to send Dimond into the semifinals.
In the 10th minute at Dimond's Alumni Field, Gogolowski sprinted from midfield to the left sideline, where she not only saved the ball from going out of play but simultaneously delivered a rocketing through ball to Lewis, who gave the Lynx a 1-0 lead.
Lewis scored again in the 27th minute, this time off a feed from her twin sister, Aaliyah. Aailyah Lewis set Gogolowski's goal from the left side in the 38th minute.
Gogolowski said the Lynx, who were sharp from the outset, were determined to play well because a first-round loss in the state championships strips away the possibility of winning the title.
"Since we had already tied Service, we knew they would come out hard, and if you lose this game, you're (basically) out,'' Gogolowski said. "Our team works way too well together to be out, so we knew we had to play our best.''
South 4, Juneau 2
Kayla Sims scored two of her three goals in the first half, and Katelynn Zanders added another to give fifth-seeded South a 3-0 first-half lead that shrunk to 3-2 in the late going before Sims put the match away by completing her hat trick in Chugiak.
Juneau's Bekka Ord scored on a penalty kick in the first half to cut South's lead to 3-1 and Rebekah Badilla closed the gap to 3-2 off an assist from Sidney Browning. But Sims killed the fourth-seeded Crimson Bears' comeback bid.
"We started out well,'' said South coach Brian Farrell. "You can always count on Juneau to fight to the end. They just kept pressuring, pressuring, pressuring.
"It was a good test for us.''
West Valley 3, Kenai 1
Third-seeded West Valley and sixth-seeded Kenai were locked in a 1-1 tie after regulation -- Maddison Ackiss scored for the Wolfpack and Allie Ostrander for the Kardinals -- before West Valley scored a goal in each of the 10-minute overtime periods at Dimond.
Kelly Hoffman scored West Valley's first overtime goal with a long strike and Jill Phillips gave the Wolfpack a two-goal cushion with her goal in the second overtime period.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.