The Soldotna High School boys soccer team got a boost from a save on a penalty kick late in the game to defeat Nikiski 2-0 Friday in Soldotna.
The Nikiski girls played an opportunistic game, netting an early goal and a 1-1 draw with the Stars.
Soldotna boys keeper Lee Green, inserted into the game in the second half after Tim Joseph kept a clean sheet for the Stars through the first half, faced a penalty shot from Nikiski's Omar Thompson that could have tied the game after a Soldotna player was caught handling the ball in the 18-yard box.
Thompson placed his shot well, angling for the upper right corner, but Green got his hands on the ball to knock the shot aside.
"I just happened to guess right -- luckily, he didn't put it right in the corner," Green said of Thompson's bid. "If he would have scored, we might have gotten a little bit down, but 90 percent of penalty saves are luck."
"It's usually a 4-to-1 ratio of penalty kicks that go in to penalty kicks that are saved," said Soldotna coach John Bramante. "With Green, it's more like 50-50. I don't have that same degree of dread when he's in goal."
The Stars took a 1-0 lead on a goal by striker Mack Reynolds about 10 minutes into the game.
Anthony Murray played a ball into the Nikiski box that landed between two Bulldogs defenders and just in front of Nikiski keeper Jamie Queen.
The Bulldogs hesitated for a split second -- just long enough for Reynolds to get a foot on the ball and touch it past the charging Queen.
The Bulldogs were able to generate some chances of their own, but were unlucky with their final touches. One apparent goal by Quincy Bird was called offsides in the first half, while another shot by Josh Reilly went just wide of the post.
"These guys never gave up," said Nikiski coach Jim Coburn. "They came on strong -- they just couldn't get a roll to go their way."
Nikiski continued to put pressure on the Soldotna defense through the second half, but Green was able to come up with balls in traffic when the Bulldogs were able to penetrate the Soldotna defense.
Queen did all he could to keep the Bulldogs in the game at the other end of the field as well, sparking some Nikiski attacks with his long goal kicks and punts in addition to posting 20 saves.
Lucas Petersen netted the goal that broke the Bulldogs' back late in the second half, though.
With the Bulldogs pushing forward looking for the equalizer, Soldotna was able to counter quickly through midfield. Mike McIntosh split the Nikiski defense with a through pass into the box to Petersen, who was able to touch it home.
"They had a really good shot in the second half to finish us off," Coburn said.
Both coaches said that they saw improvement from both squads in the game.
"Nikiski played better than I've seen them play in the past," Bramante said.
"This game was a good example of where soccer's come from on the peninsula. It was a hard-fought, physical, but still relatively skilled game."
Amanda Weaver gave the Nikiski girls an early one-goal lead in their game against Soldotna.
After a scramble for a loose ball in front of Soldotna keeper Danielle Kerrone, Weaver was able to pounce on the ball and tap it home.
Soldotna netted the equalizer early in the second half. Sam Penner took a pass from Jennifer Sennette along the right wing and launched a shot that Nikiski keeper Jessica Taylor got her hands on, but the shot had just enough juice on it to roll across the goal line after Taylor knocked it down.
"They put plenty of pressure on us," said Nikiski girls coach Richard Kelso. "I was quite pleased at the end. They had chances and hit the post, we had chances and hit the post."
Nikiski was able to generate chances in front of the Soldotna goal with some good midfield play from Joy Carr, Laura Covich, April Lofstedt and Sabrina Johns, while Weaver was dangerous up front.
Kelso also was pleased with the defensive effort from Rene Reilly and Kayle Myer.
Soldotna coach Katie Tongue was pleased with the skill she saw from her side, particularly through the midfield.
"We've got some kids who can control the ball," Tongue said. "We just have to get them some more time together. We've got a little speed helping us out in the backfield and on the front line. The more we play on the field, the more we're finding our feet. There were things I hadn't seen in a game or in practice until today."
Tongue was pleased with the play of Ashley Dewey, as well as Jenni Carpenter and Jamie Beever. Tasha Zsoter played net for the Stars in the second half and made several good saves to keep the Stars even.
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