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West Valley, Lathrop soccer kick-off seasons in Mat-Su, with first Fairbanks games scheduled for Tuesday

High School Soccer in Fairbanks begins this week. (StoryBlocks Imaging)
High School Soccer in Fairbanks begins this week. (StoryBlocks Imaging)(Storyblocks Image)
Published: Apr. 26, 2021 at 8:16 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The lads are back on the pitch after their entire 2020 seasons were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we inch closer to competition in Fairbanks, the boys and girls programs for West Valley and Lathrop High kicked-off their seasons in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley over the weekend, their first outdoor action of the year.

After only practicing inside of their school’s gym, the Lathrop boys took to the field against Colony Friday, dropping the season-opener 8-0.

The next day, it was a different Malemutes program. Lathrop got on the board first, and second, in their 2-1 win over the Wasilla Warriors Saturday.

“Just in one game, you could definitely see the team was starting to think and play much more fluidly together, connecting on passes and making the right shots at the right time,” said Lathrop boys soccer coach Logan Lyle.

Isaac Dershin put home a penalty kick in the first half to strike first, before Lathrop goalie Ryan Thomas stopped a PK attempt on the other end to maintain the lead. In the second half, Nathan Hoop drilled a shot from about 20-feet out to give the Malemutes a 2-0 lead. The Warriors closed a gap with a late goal, but Thomas and the Malemutes shut down the Warriors for the remainder of the match, picking up their first win of the season.

“They were super stoked,” Lyle added about the team’s excitement to get back on the pitch. “Going from a hard gym floor to the turf, which is a little more spongey, is always tough on the kids. It forces you to cramp because you’re just not used to all of the little extra muscles you have to use when you get out on to the turf. So we had a lot of cramping, that, along with trying to find our lungs for the first time, because there is only so much you can do indoors with masks before you can get outside and can actually play for free.”

As for the Lathrop girls, they were unable to come away from their road trip, falling 3-0 and 2-0 to Colony and Wasilla respectively.

The West Valley girls began their season with a 1-1 draw against Wasilla, with senior Aubrey Stacy scoring the lone goal for the Wolfpack. The following day, the Red and Gold topped Colony 4-0, anchored by Gwendolyn Bunch’s shutout in net. Ashley Atla pocketed a pair of goals, while Kara Michaelis and Jacee Chaffey also found the back of the net. Ainsley Watson, Hannah Willis and Elena Prichard (2) were credited with assists on the day.

“The girls did great for not having any outdoor practices before we played,” said West Valley girls head coach David Powers via email. “After the first game, we started to get a feel for the bigger field and things started to click. There are a lot of very talented players on the team and I was very proud of their attitude and effort all weekend.”

The Wolfpack boys dropped ended scoreless 0-0 with Wasilla, before falling 4-0 to the Knights.

In Fairbanks, the first games of the year will feature North Pole and Monroe Tuesday, with the boys (5:30 p.m.) and girls (7:30 p.m.) programs taking to the FYSA Turf Fields. On Wednesday, West Valley and Lathrop will square-off to continue their seasons, while the Hutchison girls and Eielson boys will begin theirs. The Hawks will face Monroe at 4:45 p.m., while Eielson will take on Monroe at 3:15 p.m. The high school soccer regular-season is scheduled to run through May 20, with the state tournament set for May 27-29 at Eagle River, Service and West Anchorage High Schools.

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