Nikiski's Robert Doty tries to keep the ball from Seward's Jason Webber in the second half Friday.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
After rain and snow forced postponements of several games this week, the Nikiski High School soccer teams finally got the ball rolling on the central Kenai Peninsula Friday, hosting Seward in a Northern Lights Conference Southern Division match.
The Bulldogs swept the Seahawks as the Nikiski girls beat a short-handed Seward squad 2-1 and the Nikiski boys posted an 8-0 win.
"They did surprisingly well for a group of 10," Seward girls coach Laura Beck said. "We're excited just to have a season."
Beck said the Seahawks have 13 players on the roster, but three were unavailable for Friday's match. At times it was hard to tell that the Seahawks were a player short, though, as they did well to possess the ball in the middle of the field to prevent the Bulldogs from building their attack.
Seward actually scored first after surviving some early pressure from Nikiski. Lexi Blankenship got the ball on the right wing on a quick counterattack and slipped through the Nikiski defense to fire a shot past Bulldogs goalkeeper Sarah Herrin midway through the first half.
It would be about the only shot Herrin would face, though, as Nikiski came right back down the field, creating a chance on a corner kick.
Nikiski's Amber Delago, right, keeps the ball from Seward's Malia Sutphin in the second half Friday at Nikiski.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Bulldogs were able to tie the game late in the half on a shot by Whitney Hitchcock from 18 yards out that ricocheted off the inside of the left post and rolled all the way across the goal, bouncing off the right post before being tapped in by Stacey Griffel.
Hitchcock put the Bulldogs up early in the second half, receiving a ball served in off a corner kick and knocking it into the goal.
With Seward tiring in the second half, the Bulldogs were able to keep the ball pinned into the Seahawks' half of the field, though Nikiski wasn't able to connect for any more goals.
"This gives us a boost for next game going in after a win instead of a loss," said Nikiski's Amber Delago.
Delago said that once they realized that challenging for the ball caused the Seahawks to back off a bit, the Bulldogs were able to create more scoring chances. Hitchcock said creating scoring chances was the hardest part of the game.
"It's nice to know we can get the ball down there that's one of the biggest challenges," Hitchcock said.
Delago said the next step is finishing more of those chances, something she hopes will come with practice.
"You have to have confidence. If you don't have confidence, you get flustered easily, and you can't finish anything," Delago said.
Beck said she was pleased by the play of her defense, anchored by Katie Ernst, and also was pleased with the play of Blankenship, Janessa Anderson and Angela Bailey at forward and midfield.
The Nikiski boys had some nice chances early in the match but weren't able to find the back of the net until Israel Blatchford sent a cross toward Travis McCaughey, who headed the ball home to start the scoring.
The Bulldogs led 3-0 at the half and added five goals in the second half against a Seward squad playing without the benefit of substitutes.
"It was our first game, with no subs, and they didn't stop playing the whole game," Seward coach Ryan Fisher said.
McCaughey finished with two goals for the Bulldogs. Travis McGahan, John Schwenke, Zech Hemphill and Justin Vance each scored a goal, and Blatchford finished with a goal and three assists.
Rick Miller recorded the shutout in goal for Nikiski.
Nikiski's Robert Doty said in the second half, the Bulldogs stopped chasing the ball and started passing better.
"The first half was frustrating. We weren't really working together," Doty said, "but in the second half, we started putting together passes and started scoring. When you do that, you feel like you deserve it."
The Bulldogs are slated to host Skyview Tuesday.
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