A penalty kick goal decided the outcome of Thursday’s tense Northern Lights Conference matchup between the Kenai Central and Homer boys soccer teams, as the Mariners got the 1-0 win.
Homer improved to 8-1 overall with the win, which just about wraps up the No. 1 seed for the Mariners in the NLC Southern Division. Kenai (5-3-1), on the other hand, will face Soldotna (5-3-2) Saturday in a game that will likely decide the second seed in the Southern Division.
For Kenai coach John Morton, Thursday’s loss sure didn’t feel like one. The Kardinals controlled possession for much of the match, yet saw several good opportunities to score slip away time and again in the final minutes.
“It still hasn’t soaked in that this is a loss yet,” Morton said. “When you dominate the game, you feel like you should win.
“That was easily the best game I’ve seen them play since I’ve been there.”
Unofficially, Kenai took 11 shots on goal compared to six for Homer, and held a 7-1 advantage in shots in the second half.
The biggest moment came in the 54th minute in the second half, when Kenai goalkeeper Wren Norwood collided with Homer’s Max Mangue as both players were fighting to get to the ball. The head referee decided Norwood played it too aggressively and awarded Homer a penalty kick.
“I saw a loose ball and a pretty good collision,” Waldorf said. “Something must’ve happened where the ref decided that the goalkeeper fouled my player.”
Morton said the collision happened slightly before the save.
“It looked like Wren did exactly what he was supposed to do,” Morton said. “He made the save.”
Either way, it was a hard collision that left both players writhing on the turf in pain for a few moments afterward. Both got up and brushed it off.
Drew Brown took the penalty kick and successfully converted with a blow to the lower right corner.
“It’s always huge to score a goal against Kenai on their field,” Waldorf said. “They have such a great goalkeeper.”
After that, the final 20 minutes played out with Kenai in desperation mode. The Kards continued to play the ball up the sides, rather than the middle, but attempted crosses were thwarted. In the 68th minute, Trevor Shirnberg was given a yellow card for physical play.
Ultimately, the Mariners held Kenai back enough times to win, although Homer goalie Brian Rowe had to work for it.
“We just kinda laid back and kept them in front of us,” Waldorf said. “They had their chances but the bar was friendly to us in the second half. That could’ve easily bounced in.”
Kenai nearly scored in the final minutes of the first half when a shot from TJ Wagoner rebounded off Rowe’s hands and glanced off the crossbar. Three minutes later, Wagoner’s cross to Austin Frederick almost became a goal, but the ball sailed wide to keep it scoreless.
The halftime Senior Night celebration recognized Nolan Scarlett, Trevor Shirnberg, TJ Wagoner, Bill Ashwell, Nate Narlock, Wren Norwood, Merrick Ahlberg and Fox Michaud.
Kenai girls 0, Homer 0
Earlier in the day, the Kardinals and Mariners girls squads played 80 minutes without a goal. The tie left Kenai with a 6-2-1 season record and Homer with a 2-2-3 mark.
In goal, Alli Steinbeck got the shutout for Kenai and Rachel Doan did likewise for Homer. Steinbeck saved four shots on goal unofficially, while Doan saved 10 shots.
“I thought we came out flat and I was a little disappointed,” said Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen. “I knew our girls could dominate possession and get some opportunities, but they were just standing and waiting to see what the ball was doing.”
Homer may have been the beneficiary in the end, as Kenai controlled much of the game and looked to be on the verge of a goal late in the match. Kenai also took seven corner kicks while Homer had none.
“I never really understood this game where we play for 80 minutes then walk away, shake hands and nobody wins,” joked Homer coach Mickey Todd. “I think it’s a good morale boost for us, we’ve been improving every match.”
Todd praised the efforts of Zoia Basargin and Aspen Daigle in the defensive midfield.
Verkuilen said the game reminded his team a bit of the 1-0 loss it suffered against Grace two weeks ago, a match that they controlled possession in.
“Heidi (Perkins) had a direct shot that just missed the post and Lara (Creighton) had one that just missed,” Verkuilen said. “Some games you don’t score and they just don’t come easy.”
Kenai had a key opportunity in the 54th minute with a cross from Perkins that narrowly missed scoring, and it got even closer in the 63rd minute when Perkins took a free kick from about 15 yards out that sailed high.
The Kards will end their season with a Saturday matchup at Soldotna.
Soldotna girls 11, Skyview 0
The host Stars moved to 10-0 overall and 3-0 in the Northern Lights Conference Southern Division with a victory.
SoHi coach Jimmy Love said he has encouraged his team to treat the last three games of the regular season like the conference tournament, and thus far the Stars have responded.
SoHi hosts Grace at 3 p.m. today, then hosts Kenai on Saturday.
“I would hope they would keep their sense of urgency,” Love said. “One of the worst things is to enter the tournament not playing the best soccer they can play.”
Katelynn Kerkvliet and Kelci Benson shared the shutout in net.
The Panthers (1-8, 1-2) put up a fight, and were down 3-0 at halftime.
“It gave us a chance to get pretty organized,” Skyview coach David Carpenter said. “They are so organized and scripted, it was a good workout for us.”
The first-half goals were Kylee Wolfe from Skylar Shaw, Benson from Wolfe and Olivia Conradi, and Julie Litchfield from Wolfe and Shaw.
“A couple of times the girls weren’t paying too much attention and they caught us off-guard with their speed,” Love said. “They were able to stifle some of our possession when we were dragging our feet too long.”
In the second half the goals were Kerkvliet from Alyssa Wolfe, Brianna Bennett from Kerkvliet, Taryn McCubbins, Kerkvliet, Reagan Schoessler, Alyssa Wolfe, Shaw, and Elizabeth Cho.
Carpenter said Ciarra Mahan did a good job after getting moved back to goalie. The coach also liked what Serene Hobbs did in midfield, while he also said Athena Robinson ran her heart out.
Skyview hosts Nikiski today at 4 p.m.
Soldotna boys 2, Skyview 0
Two tallies by Charalambos Asimakopoulos moved the host Stars to 5-3-2 and 2-1-1.
“We controlled the majority of the game and had it down on their end, but we had a lot of shots over the top of the net,” SoHi coach Jeff Siemers said.
Andrew Jackson had the shutout for SoHi, while Siemers also said Ricky Nelson did well joining the attack from defense.
Skyview coach Jake Eveland said the Panthers had a throw-in that bounced over the goalie’s head that would have tied the game, but the goal didn’t count because throw-ins must be touched.
“Our kids fought really hard,” Eveland said after falling to 2-7 and 1-2. “We’re getting some kids back from injury and it’s good to see them out there running around.”
The Panthers host Nikiski at 6 p.m. today before traveling to Homer on Saturday.