The opening 30 minutes of South's 3-0 semifinal victory Friday over Eagle River in the girls Cook Inlet Conference tournament wasn't as much a soccer match for Eagle River as a battle of attrition.
One day after Sarah Frankl of the Wolves suffered a broken femur that required surgery, the already-thin Wolves in the opening minutes lost Gaby Mordini to a bloody nose that kept her off the pitch for about 25 minutes. And just 10 minutes into the match at Eagle River High, Eagle River's Val Stewart went off with a sprained ankle.
That left the Wolves a player short, though not short of humor. Mordini kept laughingly telling teammates to stop looking at her and Eagle River coach Lauren Mason encouraged Mordini to will herself to wellness.
"Make your platelets start coagulating,'' Mason cracked.
On South's end of the sideline, Callie Orizotti came off in the 19th minute with her nose gushing blood.
Soccer is often a game of short bursts of speed, and for about a half-hour, that described athletic trainer Paul Stoufflet of Orthopedic Physicians, who went from treating Mordini to assessing Stewart's ankle to hustling along the sideline to treat Orizotti, and then revisiting all three players.
By the time South had advanced to Saturday's championship game against Dimond, which beat Service 2-0 in the other semifinal, Mason could only sigh about her team's many injuries.
"The game was a farce for us,'' Mason said with a smile.
South exploited Eagle River on set pieces, scoring all three of its goals, two by Katelynn Zanders and one by Morgan Hooe, via either corner kick or free kick.
Zanders opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, when the Wolves were still short a player, with a volley off Hooe's free kick. That goal seemed to get the Wolverines on track.
"We kind of settled down and got in our groove,'' Zanders said. "I think it was just nerves.''
Hooe, who headed a corner kick off the left post and in to give South a 2-0 first-half lead when Eagle River was back a full lineup, said the Wolverines knew they needed to play well to beat the Wolves.
"Eagle River is a good team,'' Hooe said. "We played them twice (in the regular season) and only won 1-0 both times, so we knew we had to come out really strong.''
Mason said four of the five goals her team has surrendered to South this season came off set pieces.
"We need to be stronger, more courageous on defense,'' Mason said. "I know Katelynn Zanders is tall and Morgan Hooe has a great vertical leap, but you've got to be willing to put a body on them.''
Both South and Dimond earned state-championship berths with their wins Friday and they will meet in the CIC championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Eagle River. The conference's third bid to state will be determined in Saturday's 11:30 a.m. third-place game between Eagle River and Service.
Dimond advanced to the title match on the strength of two goals from Aaliyah Lewis, who would have furnished a hat trick or better if not for several remarkable saves from Service goalkeeper Samantha Zumbro.
Zumbro stopped Lewis from point-blank range in the opening minutes. Early in the second half, Zumbro delivered consecutive saves on Lewis, stabbing out her left foot to deny one bid and punching a follow-up effort to the outside of the left post.
"She read me very well,'' Lewis said. "She made some great, great saves.''
But Lewis' left-footed blast in the 16th minute, which a diving Zumbro got a piece of, trickled into the net.
"It still had enough force, and the wind helped it, and I just hoped it was enough,'' Lewis said of her shot.
Lewis scored in the second half on a give-and-go with her twin sister, Ariela. Aaliyah fed Ariela, who returned the favor. Zumbro stopped Aaliyah's initial shot , but Ariela retrieved the rebound and again fed Aaliyah, who converted her second chance.
Aaliyah Lewis said the Lynx would enjoy the victory and the subsequent state berth for a bit, then start thinking about Saturday's conference championship game.
"Every game is always important for us -- that's how we look at it,'' she said. "Then we always look at the next game as the most important one.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News