The Nikiski boys and girls soccer teams picked up a sweep of Skyview Monday at Skyview High School for their first victories of the season. Too bad they didn't have enough time, or energy, to celebrate.
Both the Bulldogs boys and girls are in the midst of a stretch where they are playing four Region III games in five days. Monday's tilt at Skyview was the third game in that stretch. Today, Nikiski is slated to take on Soldotna. The girls play at Soldotna at 3:45 p.m. while the boys play at Nikiski at 5 p.m.
"I thought they were going to cancel the (Soldotna) game," said Nikiski senior Laura-Beth Covich with a tinge of disappointment in her voice. "It's definitely getting hard playing so many games in a row."
Despite the hectic schedule, the Nikiski boys broke through for the 4-year-old varsity program's first victory against the Panthers. Nikiski took an early lead and held on for a 3-1 victory to improve its record on the young season to 1-2.
"I could tell they really wanted to beat Skyview today," said Nikiski coach Jim Coburn. "They came out aggressive."
Indeed, Nikiski took advantage of a Skyview defense that was missing two starters from the get-go.
Just 10 minutes into the game, Nikiski senior Quincy Bird scored on an assist from fellow senior Chris Roofe. The play developed after Skyview attempted to play the ball back to its goalkeeper, but didn't touch it back hard enough, allowing Nikiski to intercept.
Steven Calderwood gave Nikiski a 2-0 lead just eight minutes later, knocking a direct free kick in off the side post. Finally, 35 minutes into the first half Bird took a pass from Roofe and lofted a shot into the goal from the corner of the penalty area.
"I think that's the first time we've ever been up on anybody 3-0," Bird said. "And it all happened in the first half."
After that, it was up to Nikiski sophomore goalie Josh Winters to preserve the lead. The Panthers put constant pressure on the Bulldogs in the second half, but Winters nipped attacks in the bud by jumping off his line. He always seemed to be able to corral the ball when it went into a cloud of players in front of the net.
"I kind of risked it a few times," Winters said. "I went out there a couple of times not knowing what I was doing. I guess I just kind of lucked out."
Coburn has been coaching Winters since Winters was in eighth grade. The coach said Winters has been taught that it's better to be overly aggressive than to be caught back on your line.
"We had a lot of helter-skelter plays in front of their net," said Skyview boys coach Dave Carpenter, whose team is now 1-1. "(Winters) always seemed to come out of them with the ball."
Skyview's lone goal came just 20 seconds into the second half, when Brendan Martin assisted Ty Edward. Other than that, Chris McCaughey, Kyle Alexander and Nigel Penhale held down the defensive positions nicely for the Bulldogs.
Carpenter was happy with the games he got from Mike Sturm on defense and Jacob Fellman in the midfield.
In the girls game, a 1-0 victory by the Bulldogs, Amanda Weaver made the difference with a goal 23 minutes into the second half.
The play was even throughout, with both teams playing solid at defense and in the midfield, but having trouble getting anything going up front.
"We literally didn't have one good opportunity on the goal," said Skyview coach Tony Lewis, whose team is now 1-1 overall. "We could get the ball into their end of the field, but then we didn't know what to do with it."
Nikiski goalkeeper Karen Rabung said she had to touch the ball just once in the second half.
While Weaver scored the game-winning goal, the sixth sense that exists between Bulldogs senior midfielders April Lofstedt and Covich also had a lot to do with the goal.
Covich received a pass at midfield and, without trapping it or even looking up, played the ball up the field to Lofstedt, who was wide open.
"We always know exactly what the other one is thinking," Covich said. "I just knew she was up there."
Lofstedt received Covich's pass and slipped the ball to Weaver, who was wide open about seven yards from the center of the goal. Weaver's blast into the corner of the net left Skyview goalie Ailis Vann no chance.
"I thought I had a couple good chances earlier in the game," Weaver said. "I knew if I kept playing hard I'd get one in."
Nikiski coach Richard Kelso, whose team is now 1-2, was pleased with the play of the entire team, particularly the defense.
Meanwhile, Lewis pointed out the solid play of sweeper Courtney Kier and Vann.
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