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High School Sports

Lynx get their kicks in state-championship soccer win over Colony boys

Establishing a sensational soccer scene Saturday night, a majority of fans at the Division I boys state tournament title match left the bleachers and lined the sideline fences just before the start of penalty kicks.

Dimond High faithful stood on the north side of Service High Stadium, while followers of top-seeded Colony congregated on the south side. An epic match was going to end at the west-end net, and it deserved a closer look.

Dimond junior forward Niko Latva-Kiskola tucked his penalty-kick attempt inside the left post for the decisive goal in his team's thrilling 1-0 victory over the Knights. The Lynx won the eight-round overtime shootout 5-4 to avenge their season's lone loss and earn the school's fourth state championship and first since 2015.

After the teams locked up in a scoreless battle for 110 minutes (80 regulation, 20 non-sudden-victory and 10 golden goal), Latva-Kiskola finished things off in dramatic fashion. Then he and his Lynx teammates bolted toward the students, family and friends lined up at the fence to kick off the celebration.

"It's amazing how the culmination of an entire season can come down to about two seconds," Latva-Kiskola said. "But those of us who have played the game for most of our lives have been through the PK tension before."

When his number was called to kick, Latva-Kiskola said his mind purposefully went blank.

"I thought of nothing," he said. "You don't want anything clouding things up. But I had ice in my veins."

Latva-Kiskola teammates Derek Stone, Raymond Burke, Cooper Arend and goalkeeper Jakob Stone also scored in the penalty-kick shootout. Jakob Stone, a sophomore and the younger brother of senior Derek Stone, also recorded shootout saves in rounds four, six and seven.

"Whether you're on offense or defense, the confidence is the same," Jakob said. "You see the replay in your mind of what you want to happen."

Colony's Noah Krozel, Kyle Dearborn, Cade Johnstone and Danny Vallejo scored on their penalty kicks.

During the first half,  each squad enjoyed a handful of scoring chances, although Colony registered the only three shots on goal.

Dimond's best scoring opportunity came in the 17th minute. Derek Stone collected a throw-in from the right sideline and quickly turned to the net from about seven yards out. But his shot went high, pinging off the football goal post crossbar and settling on top of the netting above Colony goalkeeper Silas Steiner.

In the 24th minute, Colony senior Michael Shower took Ethan Overland's right-to-left centering feed and chipped a shot wide right.

An apparent Dimond goal from Nathan Dickhaus in the 74th minute was disallowed after the referee conferred from a distance with the assistant referee along the right sideline.

The match featured a pair of teams with a combined winning percentage better than 91 percent. They played to a scoreless draw in Palmer on April 16, and the Knights notched a 2-0 win at Dimond Alumni Field on May 7.

The Lynx finished with an 18-1-1 record; Colony finished 17-3-1.

Longtime Knights coach Jeremy Johnson said the title tilt lived up to his expectations.

"Neither team could find a way to get that goal, and unfortunately for us Jakob came up huge for Dimond with some key (penalty-kick) saves on what I thought were great shots," Johnson said. "PKs are intense, but part of our game. You just try to keep everyone loose as they unfold.

"Matches have to end. You can't run out there forever."

On this night, the Lynx enjoyed the last meaningful sprint: the one to their fans gathered near the fence for a closer look.

"We did this for them as well as all our seniors and our coaches," Latva-Kiskola said. "We're thankful to everyone at the school who believed in us."

In the third place game, West and Lathrop battled to a 1-1 tie. Service placed fifth with a 4-3 victory over South.

The Division II state title went to Kenai Central, which handed Juneau a 2-0 loss.

Homer defeated North Pole 3-0 in the third-place game, and Kodiak fended off Grace Christian 1-0 in the fourth-place game.

ASAA/First National Bank boys state soccer championships

Division I

Championship – Dimond 1, Colony 0 (5-4 penalty kicks)

Third place – West 1, Lathrop 1 (no penalty kicks)

Fifth place – Service 4, South 3

Division II

Championship – Kenai 2, Juneau 0

Third place – Homer 3, North Pole 0

Fourth place – Kodiak 2, Grace Christian 1

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