Anxious thoughts raced through the minds of the Thunder Mountain boys soccer team as they laid to rest on Wednesday night in Anchorage.
The school’s first-ever state tournament game loomed just around the corner, and the Falcons’ opponent, Monroe Catholic, was an unfamiliar foe they hadn’t played all this season.
However, it wasn’t soccer that consumed the Juneau team’s thoughts, but the well-being of one of their teammates who hours earlier was carted off in an ambulance at the Falcons’ practice at Service High School. Senior Kieran Kollar, a sturdy defenseman that logs heavy minutes, fell during a routine drill that many suspected to be a broken leg. It now appears to be a tendon or ligament injury, according to assistant coach Tim Lewis, but the whole incident left the team reeling.
“You could definitely see the mental drop as soon as he went down,” Lewis said.
Strength — not surprise — encapsulated Thunder Mountain’s play the following day. The Falcons (9-6-1) blasted past Monroe Catholic 4-1 to set up a semifinal date with rival Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé today at 5 p.m. at West Anchorage High School.
“On one hand it was really sad for them to see their best bud out, but at the same time they stepped up their play,” Lewis said. “They were playing for Kieran.”
Freshman Matthew Hartsock scored two first-half goals, and Logan Miller and Bernard Yadao did the rest to down the Rams (8-3-1). Miller darted the ball 20 yards into the net before halftime and Yadao connected on a header cross from Gavin Gende in the second half. Jake Babcock and Wallace Adams were credited with the other assists.
Lewis was proud of how his team stepped up in the face of adversity. The Falcons blew a 3-1 lead and lost to Homer 4-3 earlier in the season when a previous Kollar injury forced him to leave that game.
“This time the boys — we were able to mentally prepare them and they were mentally prepared for this game,” Lewis said.
JDHS no match for Palmer
The Crimson Bears boys soccer team also won their first-round matchup of the state soccer tournament on Thursday night.
Seniors Kanon Goetz and Jackson Norberg notched two goals apiece in the victory as JDHS raced to a 6-0 victory over Palmer at Service High.
“We played really fast right out of the shoot and we just put ourselves in really good situations,” JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. “When you get a couple goals early, it makes it pretty difficult for the other team. I think they start to lose their fight after a while.”
Norberg scored from senior Peter Sidmore to put the Crimson Bears up 3-0 before halftime, and then converted on a free kick from the top of the box to make it 5-0 in the second half. Junior Kaiden Wilshusen scored the final goal of the game in the 59th minute on another free kick.
Norberg, a skilled passer and shooter, said the Crimson Bears were anxiously anticipating the state tournament, and that’s likely why they played with such energy.
“We came in pretty hungry,” Norberg said. “I know a lot of us are pretty excited just to be here, so that probably played an impact.”
Ketchikan and Kenai will square off in the other semifinal matchup today. The Kings, also appearing in their first-ever state championship, will face Kenai. Ketchikan defeated Homer 2-1 and Kenai overtook Grace Christian 3-0 in their respective first-round matchups.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.