Story last updated at 3:33 p.m. Thursday, May 16, 2002

Rally eases soccer blues
By Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

One day after its post-season hopes were dashed by a 3-2 loss to Skyview, the Homer High School boys soccer team rallied Friday to play the best 80 minutes of soccer of the season.

While a 2-2 tie may not sound like a reason for celebration, the Mariners erased a two-goal deficit with five minutes to play, scoring the equalizer on a beautiful corner kick off the foot of Ivan Bucher in the 78th minute.

Bucher, who scored the other Mariner goal as well, managed to get enough left-footed English on the corner kick to curl it straight into the Stars' goal. The unofficial assist on the goal might have to go to Mariner goalkeeper David Bell and coach Ed Kelly, who sent Bell into the offensive box.

"Having the keeper up in the box caused enough of a distraction that SoHi" was so busy looking for players to cover that they forgot to worry about putting defenders in front of their own net, Kelly said.

"It was one of the most beautiful shots I've ever seen," Bell said.

Given that the Mariners will not make the cut for the Region III tournament, the tie was only a moral victory. But it was a costly loss for the Stars, who slipped from their top spot in Region III's southern conference.

"We really wanted to beat those guys," Bell said. "We don't respect them and they don't respect us, so we were happy to make it harder for them at Regions."

With a 6-1 win over the Mariners on Saturday, Kenai grabbed the first seed for the conference and earned the right to play Grace Christian in the Region tourney.

Under the new Region III format, with the northern and southern divisions each placing their top four teams in the tournament, the 2-6-1 Mariners are finished.

Under the format that was in place last year, with the top eight teams in the entire region making the postseason, the Mariners would have qualified.

"We'd have been the eighth seed," Kelly said. "And we'd have only squeaked in, but we'd have been in just the same."

As it was, the Mariners needed to win all three of their final games to have a shot at the postseason.

That made Thursday's 3-2 loss to Skyview particularly tough to take.

The Mariners had to fight back from a 2-0 hole after the Panthers scored on a free kick that went into the net off a Homer player and then were awarded a rekick on a missed penalty kick. The second chance went in.

Late in the game, with the score 3-1, the Mariners pushed Bell forward into the offensive box on a corner kick and he touched the ball over to Van Hawkins who powered it home.

Looking at the final score of 3-2, Kelly said his team had a tough time digesting the loss, knowing it meant the ultimate end of their post-season chances.

"It was pretty gutting for all of us," Kelly said. "We learned a lot of lessons and there were some

harsh lessons."