In Alaska, it's wise not to play games with Mother Nature. However, the Kenai Central and Hutchison soccer teams showed on Friday it is possible to scrimmage with her.
The two sides weren't able to squeeze in the first soccer game of the season on the Kenai Peninsula, but they came close. Because the official game fields weren't quite ready, the teams decided to scrimmage on Kenai's practice field. That field isn't quite big enough to hold an official game.
The Kardinals won both scrimmages by scores of 8-0.
Hutchison had just faced Nikiski in Anchorage on Thursday, with the girls losing and the boys playing to a tie, so Hutchison's Dave Veazey, who is coaching both the girls and boys teams on this trip, said the scrimmages were welcome on Friday. Hutchison played at Skyview in official games on Saturday, with the girls winning 1-0 and the boys winning 5-1.
"We were tired and beat up from (Thursday)," Veazey said. "We were happy to make this a scrimmage."
The Kardinals were happy just to get outside for the first game of the year. Kenai had practiced outside a few times, and girls coach Dan Verkuilen said 60 kids took to the game fields with snowblowers and shovels one day this week in order to try and get the fields ready for Friday.
All the snow was cleared from the field, but a thin layer of ice just under the grass made the field unplayable. The practice field, which drains a little better than the game field, also had ice in some areas until Thursday.
"On the sideline, it was still rock-hard," Verkuilen said. "Kids would hit that area with their cleats and just slide."
Verkuilen said the scrimmage was a good opportunity for the young players on his team to gain experience. He said he has at least seven freshmen and four or five sophomores on the squad.
"With so many freshmen and sophomores on the field, we had a lot of time to build chemistry," Verkuilen said. "The upperclassmen got everybody playing their position well."
Kenai received its first two goals from Jenna Calhoun, the second coming on a cross from Freya Chay. The third goal came from Erika Reynolds after Christiana Garcia put a shot off the post, while the fourth goal was an own goal.
In the second half, Taylor Matson scored twice while Calhoun completed her hat trick and Lauren Schamf also scored. Schamf came back from an injury earlier in the game to net the goal.
Veazey said the scrimmage format was great because there was a brief timeout after each 20 minutes of play to give him a chance to do extra coaching. He said his girls team, which is inexperienced, got much more organized as the game went on. The coach said Justice Soule and Claire Everts had solid games on defense.
"The back line has to work together," Veazey said. "If it doesn't, the game gets ugly really fast. It the back line does work together, teams can play with teams that are much better than they are. That's what's great about soccer."
The Hutchison girls showed their improved organization on Saturday, when Kelsey McGinty scored near the end of the first half to key the victory over the Panthers. Skyview coach David Carpenter said his team controlled the ball for the majority of the match, but could not score.
"We've got to learn how to finish," he said.
Carpenter said Megan Janorschke played a great game at stopper.
Veazey saw similar improvement from his boys team. According the Kenai boys coach David Landry, his team is all seniors except for a sophomore and two juniors.
"We can put a lot of skill on the field," Landry said. "We can come up with some pretty good play if we just keep our heads in it.
"They're a funny bunch of guys. They'll be in the game one minute and not in the game the next minute."
Veazey said scrimmaging against such a skilled team was great for his team.
"Because so many haven't played a lot of soccer, they learned a ton and are progressing," he said. "That's fun to see."
Hutchison goalie Dayna Colang had 14 saves in the game, many of the diving variety. Veazey said she is a national team hockey player for her age group.
"She's awesome," he said. "When I took the boys coaching job, I did it on one condition -- that Dayna would be my goalie. They said I couldn't do that, but I did it anyway."
Landry said AJ Ewing and Jeff Narlock led a defense that communicated very well. He also said Justin Calhoun, Brady Perkins and Oliver Kiech keyed an attack that did a good job of not bunching up in the middle and taking the attack wide.
On Saturday, the Hutchison boys scored three early goals to key the victory. Skyview's lone goal came from Joel Catalan, while coach Rustin Hitchcock said Bryce Wilson played a solid game in goal.
"They scored three times in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but after that we played them to a 2-1 game," Hitchcock said. "We know which adjustments we have to make."
Skyview will host Homer on Monday, with the girls varsity at 3 p.m. and the boys varsity at 5 p.m.
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