With the top seed in the Northern Lights Conference Southern Division on the line, the Kenai Kardinals and Soldotna Stars played to a scoreless draw Saturday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.
In just her fourth game in net, SoHi sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Kindred turned away numerous Kardinal chances. Kindred finished the game with nine saves, including two in the final minutes to preserve the clean sheet.
The action intensified in the 73rd minute, after Kindred and Olivia Brewer collided in the box, Kindred made a save on the free kick. A couple minutes later, Kenai senior midfielder Hannah Drury was given a yellow card. On the ensuing free kick, Kardinals junior forward Lara Creighton hit a laser shot toward the top left corner. Kindred sprawled out and made a glove save that she was able to corral and deny Kenai another chance.
“I almost thought she jumped too soon,” said Soldotna coach Jimmy Love said of Kindred on the late save. “She is a strong component of our defense.”
Kindred, who played basketball in the winter, used her athleticism as a post-up player to make saves and was aggressive running out to play the ball.
Love said the Stars started both halves the way he likes to see them play, with more possession and moving the ball up the sidelines. As the game wore on and the hot sun beat down, his team got out of an offensive rhythm.
“We started booting the ball,” he said.
Love said the rivalry game became physically intense near the end because there was a lot riding on the outcome, but nothing went over the line.
“This is a big game they are going to battle through that stuff,” he said. “Their opportunities cross through balls suits their game was one reason they had more shots. We didn’t mark up as well.”
Kenai connected on several long passes to freshman forward Hayley Maw, who was the biggest pest in the Stars side of the field. Senior defenders Anna Wrobel and Kearsten Yames kept her from finding space.
Kenai senior goalie Alli Steinbeck made two saves on two shots on target, but saw only four shots in the game.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said there was no mystery between the two teams that it would have been a standout defensive performance between both keepers.
“We had some chances but didn’t get the strikes we needed,” Verkuilen said. “A couple one-touches that could have made some breakaways could have been the difference. (Kindred) made a couple nice saves. Two of the better goalies in the state. It’s always a battle against them.”
Kindred sat out the first game against Kenai last month with an injury, a game Kenai won 3-1. She said she feels strong now and is ready for the post-season.
“We have a great defensive line in front of me,” Kindred said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish.”
Verkuilen said Soldotna has a better record against Northern Lights Conference powerhouses Colony and Wasilla, in part because Kenai played those two opponents one day before Soldotna.
“We tired them out for (SoHi),” he said.
Kenai and Soldotna play Thursday in regions with their matchups to be determined.
Soldotna girls 4,
Grace Christian 0
The host Stars warmed up, literally, for the big battle with the Kardinals by defeating the Grizzlies and moving to 11-3 overall.
Maddie Kindred had the shutout for the Stars. Coach Jimmy Love said that on turf, the temperature may have gotten up to 80 degrees.
“We accomplished a good portion of what we wanted to do,” Love said. “We moved the ball fairly well and most of the time we communicated, whether it was verbally or nonverbally. We were also taking shots when they were available.”
Jaela Hubbard, assisted by Sarah Federle, scored in the third minute, while Marlayna Saavedra tallied in the 17th.
In the second half, Abi Tuttle, assisted by Savannah Wolfe, and Whitney Wortham, assisted by Tuttle and Wolfe, added goals.
Nikiski 3, Seward 0
Grace Christian 5, Nikiski 0
The Bulldogs wrapped up the regular season with a weekend split.
Against Seward on Friday, Nikiski got goals from Zykiah Cooney, Rylee Jackson and Alexa Schmidt, with Brianna Vollertsen keeping the clean sheet in goal.
Coach Troy Zimmerman credited his team with a balanced game as the offense created opportunities while the defense was steady in front of Vollertsen.
The Bulldogs dropped their season finale to Grace as the Grizzlies pulled away after leading just 1-0 at the half. Zimmerman said Niksiki just couldn’t quite muster the energy needed to equalize in the second half.
Nikiski is preparing for the region tournament, which starts Thursday in Kenai.