The Nikiski High School girls soccer team assumed the personality of its mascot Thursday, hanging on with Bulldog determination to earn a scoreless draw against the visiting Kenai Central Kardinals in a Region III match.
The Kenai boys opened with the type of fast start the Kenai girls were hoping to muster, scoring in the second minute to post a 3-1 win against the Bulldogs.
In other Region III games Thursday, the Homer girls defeated the visiting Grace Christian Grizzlies 8-1 while the Grace Christian boys posted a 5-4 win over the host Mariners.
"(Coach Dan) Verkuilen was driving it into our heads that we needed to start off fast, and we didn't do that," said Kenai's Amy Fischer. "In the second half, we started playing better and getting some scoring opportunities, we just didn't take advantage of them."
Kenai's Jamie Montgomery heads the ball as Nikiski's Rainey Reilly heads Montgomery during Thursday's game.
Photo by M. SCOTT MOON
Nikiski coach Richard Kelso credited his defense and goalkeeper Karen Rabung with keeping the Bulldogs even with Kenai.
"It was a typical Nikiski-type game," Kelso said. "It was gutsy and the girls hung on. We defended well, and tried to stick to the basics -- keep it simple. Our goalkeeper played well. She had several good saves."
The Bulldogs even survived a penalty kick by the Kardinals.
Kelso said Kayle Meyer played well, putting her body in harm's way, as did Aurora Zinck, Rainey Reilly, April Lofstedt and Emily Grimes.
The Bulldogs also were able to work several freshman into the lineup to gain some valuable varsity experience. Kelso noted the play of Krystal Gladden, Amber Delago and Rachel Gerke in that department.
Nikiski's Amanda Weaver said it was good to be outside playing a game for a change.
"We came together a lot better than we thought we were going to for our first game -- yesterday was our first time out on the field," Weaver said. "Getting used to it, as far as passing, it's a different surface, and there's a lot more room to work with."
The Kardinals also were playing on a grass field for the first time this year, and needed the first half to make the adjustment.
"A lot of the time, we just weren't clicking," Fischer said. "We haven't played on a field at all, so we haven't had a chance to work on the game part."
Adrian Borchgrevink put the Kenai boys on the board in the second minute of the boys game, finishing off a play set up by Owen Brewer and Carlos Carreon.
Richard Alexander gave Kenai a two-goal cushion in the 18th minute, assisted by Borchgrevink. Micah Lillard scored Kenai's third goal with seven minutes left in the first half, assisted by Jose Arayo.
Joey Wicker put the Bulldogs on the board two minutes into the second half, converting a pass from Nick Russell.
"We got to get a few of the kinks out," Kenai boys coach David Landry said. "This is actually a real nice field for us, because it's ground, not gym and not beach."
After scoring early, the Kardinals relied on steady play from the defensive trio of Wally Ward, Cory Janson and Marcus Webster to keep things moving forward.
Landry said the Kardinals were adjusting to a new midfield, anchored by Carlos Carreon. Landry said Arayo and Alexander also put in valuable minutes in the center of the park.
Eric Nyce made five saves in net for the Kardinals.
Josh Winters, Nyce's counterpart in the Nikiski lineup, made 10 saves for the Bulldogs, and was assisted once by his post and once by sweeper Nigel Penhale, who was able to clear away a shot that had gotten past Winters, saving a goal.
Nikiski coach James Coburn said Rustin Hitchcock played a solid game, and liked what he saw from freshman defenders Travis McCaughey and Travis McGahan.
"We're at a point where a lot of the younger guys are more skilled than some of our upper classmen who only have a year or two of soccer," Coburn said.
Coburn added that Russell put together an excellent game, culminating with his assist on Wicker's goal.
At Homer, Carly Garay scored three goals and Chantrelle Cousins notched two more for the Mariners in their win over the Grace girls.
In the boys game, Llosh Winne scored a pair of goals in the final five minutes to tie the match, but Grace countered with a goal with just over a minute to play to steal the win.
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