Myriad connections bind South High teammates Morgan Hooe and Katelynn Zanders. They live across the street from each other. They've been pals and teammates since elementary school. And in sports, Hooe constructs the build-up and Zanders furnishes the exclamation point.
In volleyball, Hooe generally sets the ball and Zanders hammers it home. Come spring, and high school soccer season, nothing much changes -- Hooe delivers the ball, Zanders delivers the goal.
"That's pretty much the way it works,'' Hooe said matter-of-factly.
Saturday afternoon at Dimond's Alumni Field, that connection produced the prosperity that propelled South to its second straight girls high school soccer championship -- Zanders racked her first hat trick at any level, and Hooe assisted on all three of those goals and Kylie Street's goal in a 4-0 victory over West Valley.
Though Zanders occasionally plays defense and Hooe often plays the midfield, they were positioned together up front Saturday and furnished a tandem of strikers that proved, well, striking.
South controlled play throughout its match with undermanned West Valley -- the Wolfpack have been beset largely by injuries and slightly by players with family obligations, and featured 13 players in a sport that fields 11 -- and the Hooe-Zanders combination seemed unstoppable.
"We try to pair them together because they're so good together,'' said South coach Brian Farrell.
The measure of proof: Zanders, by unofficial count, generated an astonishing 16 shots, and Hooe was the principal provider on nearly every one.
"I don't even have to hear her to know where she is,'' Hooe said.
The Wolverines got off to a rocking start just two minutes into the match, when Hooe, stationed on the right side, gently placed the ball into space and Zanders ran onto it and delivered a 1-0 lead. In the 15th minute, Zanders half-volleyed Hooe's throw-in and bounced it past West Valley goalkeeper Jasmine Bourne for a 2-0 lead that stood through the first half.
"They're tough players,'' said West Valley coach Greg Gibson. "You've got to match (South's) intensity and aggressiveness. We really didn't do that in the first half. We did some in the second half, but by then the game had gotten away from us.''
That's because the Wolverines weren't just strong up front. They also controlled the midfield. And on the rare occasion the Wolfpack worked the ball to the final third of the pitch, South's backline of sophomore Keely Jelinek and freshmen Erin Stuart and Ashtyn Evans, and goalkeeper Sarah Johnson, had little problem rebuffing the challenge.
South raised the lead to 3-0 in the 62nd minute, when Hooe's throw-in from the right side slipped through Bourne's hands near the right post and Kylie Street flicked home the tap-in.
Any suspense at that point centered on whether Zanders could rack a hat trick.
"I was like, 'You need to get one more,' " Hooe said, emphasis on "need.''
"I've never had a hat trick, and I wanted it so bad,'' Zanders said.
Hooe, naturally, provided the dish that resulted in Zanders' third goal -- "She's the quarterback and I just follow along,'' Zanders said.
Zanders ran down Hooe's pass deep on the right side in the 68th minute, pivoted slightly back to the inside and ripped a left-footed scorcher off the left post and in.
That goal capped South's relentless performance against a West Valley team that made history by becoming the first Fairbanks soccer team of either gender to make it to the championship match.
"I think it hurts for the girls right now,'' Gibson said. "We've got a long drive home and I think they'll appreciate what they managed to do this season.''
With the match in hand, Farrell was able to empty his deep bench and get everyone some playing time, which made the Wolverines' post-match celebration and picture-taking seem even more inclusive.
"It's always good in the state final to be able to get everyone in,'' Farrell said. "That's no disrespect to West Valley, playing with only 13 players. They put up a good fight.
"I'm just happy our seniors could go out that way.''
Dimond 1, Soldotna 1
Dimond and Soldotna were each awarded third place after they battled to a 1-1 draw in the third-place match -- overtime is not played in consolation matches on the final day of the tournament.
Aaliyah Lewis scored Dimond's goal and Julie Litchfield scored for Soldotna.
Service 4, Kenai 0
Rachel Juliussen bagged a hat trick and Jesslin Wooliver added a goal to lead Service to a 4-0 win over Kenai that earned the Cougars fourth place.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Katrina Wood, Grace Christian; Miranda Wolfe, Soldotna; Morgan Hooe, South; Katelynn Zanders, South; Sarah Johnson, South; Jesslin Wooliver, Service; Mariah Williams, South; Aaliyah Lewis, Dimond; Ariela Lewis, Dimond; Alexis Rogers, Dimond; Maddison Ackiss, West Valley; Jill Phillips, West Valley; Solana Ashe, Juneau; Bekka Ord, Juneau.
State Soccer Championships
2012 ASAA/First National Bank Alaska State High School Soccer Championships
Championship -- Dimond 1, Juneau 0
3rd/5th place -- West 2, South 1
4th/6th place -- Homer 4, Colony 0
Championship -- South 4, West Valley 0
3rd/5th place -- Dimond 1, Soldotna 1 (both awarded 3rd)
4th/6th place -- Service 4, Kenai 0
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News