Rain fell and the Lynx roared Saturday night as Dimond’s girls soccer team claimed its third state championship in four years in an overtime thriller against the rival South Wolverines.
The 2-1 victory was a little sweeter for the Lynx knowing they had avenged last year’s loss in the state semifinal against the Wolverines -- a loss that snapped Dimond’s 56-game undefeated streak.
“It definitely was a little bit of redemption,” Dimond coach Tim Valesko said. “We love playing them, love the rivalry, and it’s great for the kids to have another state title.”
The win was Dimond’s first this season over its long-standing rival. The Lynx lost to South 1-0 in the first game of the season on March 23 and battled to a 0-0 deadlock on May 11.
“This season literally could not have ended better," senior captain Madison Childers said. "I’ve never been more happy in my entire life. After losing our very first game, I thought this season was gonna be really rough. I knew that this team was gonna pull through, and I’m just so proud and happy for all of them.
“Them ending our 56-game streak definitely hurt -- nothing felt better than to beat them.”
Valesko, whose father passed away unexpectedly nine months ago, fought back tears while surrounded by his players following the win.
“I knew he was watching and probably enjoyed a very good game, so that one was for him,” Valesko said.
For the entirety of the first half, the match was a stalemate as the teams pressured each other relentlessly on defense. Even so, there was no shortage of shots or saves for both teams.
In the 43rd minute, the defending champion Wolverines got on the board thanks to a goal from junior Kavya Riedman, who tapped the ball after a missed header by teammate junior Allison Green.
Dimond nearly responded minutes later, but South senior goalkeeper Alexandra Nowka was there for the save.
Nowka made several more saves but could not stop Dimond junior Shelby Zimmerman from knotting the score 1-1 with a goal set up by a free kick.
In overtime, both teams remained aggressive until Dimond junior Kana Mateaki broke the stalemate in the 82nd minute.
“I wanted to do it for all my seniors and for all the people who got injured throughout the season," Mateaki said. “I wanted to do it for the team because we deserve it.”
ASAA/First National Bank state soccer championships
Division I girls
Championship – Dimond 2, South 1 (OT)
Third place – Colony 1, Wasilla 0
Fourth place – West 1, West Valley 0
South 1, Wasilla 0 (semifinal)
Dimond 1, Colony 0 (semifinal)
West 2, Eagle River 1 (loser out)
West Valley 2, Service 1 (loser out)
Olivia Schuster, South
Alex Nowka, South
Madison Childers, Dimond
Kana Mateaki, Dimond
Sterling Elliott, Colony
Abigail Uhart, Service
Alexis Frioen, Wasilla
Frida Vargas, West
Aubrey Stacy, West Valley
Mary Hoover, South
Annika Ostberg, Dimond
Gabriel Wakaliuk, Colony