The Nikiski girls soccer team knew coming into Thursday’s game against Skyview that they had to win to clinch a spot at the Northern Lights Conference tournament.
All it took was one goal, and a 1-0 victory was theirs.
“It was great, it was what we were playing for today,” said Nikiski coach Mandy Adair. “We always seem to start playing and figuring things out when we’re going into the tournament, so hopefully we can put it together and surprise somebody.”
The Nikiski girls currently have the fourth spot in the NLC staked down with a 2-2 record, 4-4 overall. Soldotna leads the conference with a 5-0 conference record and Kenai is second at 4-1.
The game was held scoreless through the first half, although that didn’t mean both teams didn’t have their opportunities. Nikiski recorded 14 shots on goal in the first half, while Skyview had eight, and both teams had multiple shots that were very nearly goals.
Nine minutes into the second half, a Skyview player was brought down in the penalty box, and that left the Panthers with an opportunity to score on a penalty kick.
Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said he picked Cheyenne Laber initially because he believed it to be a simple free kick.
“It was funny because I thought it was going to be a direct kick. I didn’t know it was going to be a PK,” Carpenter said. “I yelled Cheyenne’s name, and looking back I didn’t know who I would’ve picked to shoot it, because she got a good shot off. Rachel just made a good stop on it, and we hit the post a couple times.”
Unfortunately for Skyview, Laber’s kick was sent right at Nikiski goalkeeper Rachel Thompson, who saved the shot to keep Skyview out of the scoring column.
“Rachel is just a super strong goalie, and she’s such a pleasure to have in the back,” Adair said. “I don’t have to worry about funky bounces or anything, I know she is going to be sure-handed. She’s confident back there and I think it plays well into our defense because they’re confident too and it keeps us in a lot of games.”
It wasn’t until the 65th minute of the game that Nikiski found their goal. Bailey Buchholz dribbled the ball past a defender, sent a cross from the left corner, which accidentally bounced off a Skyview player an into the net for an own goal.
Skyview goalkeeper Dallas Derflinger saved 24 shots on goal, while Thompson saved all 12 sent her way.
The Panthers are hosting the Colony Knights tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Nikiski boys 1, Skyview 0
The Bulldogs got their only score of the game at the 67th minute from Johnny Hall to sow their own conference tournament spot up Thursday at Nikiski.
Skyview had 16 shots on goal, while Nikiski managed 18, leading to a very competitive game that saw no distinct advantage from either side. Also, Nikiski took eight corner kicks, compared to seven from Skyview.
At the 50th minute, Skyview was charged with a handball in the box, leading to a penalty kick from Nikiski.
Garrett Feller lined up the shot but sent it right to Skyview goalie Sam Deatheridge, who made the save.
“That was pretty phenomenal, it was great,” said Skyview coach Brandon Goggia. “We practiced it the day before, and he’s not even a goalkeeper usually, he just stepped up to the plate.”
Skyview’s glory would be short-lived, however, as Hall’s shot 17 minutes later was sent from the right corner and off the left post into the net.
“It was a good goal,” said Nikiski coach Jim Coburn. “The Skyview boys came out hard and outhustled us, and if it hadn’t been for the goalkeeping of Lincoln (Johnson), we’d be in trouble.
“It’s just a part of soccer, it’s 24 feet and that happens,” Coburn said about the penalty kick miss.
The Panthers will face Colony today at 6 p.m. for their penultimate game of the season.
Kenai girls 6, Seward 0
The host Kenai girls notched a victory to finish at 4-1 in the Northern Lights Conference Southern Division and move to 5-2-1 overall.
The Kardinals took a 3-0 lead in the first half. In the sixth minute, Paula Ulreich scored on an assist from Jenna Calhoun, in the 24th minute Ericka Reynolds scored off an assist from Ulreich, and in the 38th minute Allie Ostrander scored on an assist from Ericka Reynolds.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said the first goal of the game earned Ulreich and Calhoun a steak dinner. He said for three years, he has had a deal with his team that a cross and a header finish would result in the dinner.
“It’s kind of been an ongoing quest,” he said. “We almost had one the other game, but this works.”
The Kards finished it off with three goals in the second half. In the 45th minute, Logan Sternik scored on an assist from Raquelle Reynolds, in the 66th minute Sternik scored unassisted, and in the 78th minute Cassie Ross scored on an assist from Calhoun.
Sydney Taylor and Ali Steinbeck had the shutout.
The Kenai girls play at Wasilla at 4 p.m. today, while the Kenai boys play the Warriors at 6 p.m.
Homer girls 5, Skyview 0
The Mariners got the better of the Panthers on Wednesday night, as Nicole Tromblee notched Skyview’s lone goal of the game.