The Skyview High School boys soccer team notched a convincing victory Tuesday, defeating Kenai Central 5-1 in Kenai.
Also Tuesday, the Kenai Central girls rallied to a 1-1 draw against the Panthers.
"It's well deserved," said Skyview's Mitch Burdick, who notched two goals in the contest. "We worked hard at the beginning of the season to come this far."
The Panthers have come far, indeed, bettering their record to a Region III-best 5-0-1 and a Southern Division-leading 2-0 mark in division play with Tuesday's win.
"I hope we keep going with it," Burdick said. "The most important thing is we're having fun."
Burdick netted the first goal of the match 10 minutes in, driving home a ball played into the Kenai penalty area by Jacob Gauthier.
The Panthers maintained their pressure through most of the half, rattling a shot off the woodwork in the 27th minute, but the Kardinals were able to tie the match in the 30th minute when a shot that ricocheted off the Skyview post was jammed back into the net by Chris Amen.
Skyview regained its lead with a minute left in the half, though, when a corner kick by Matt Matarrese slipped through a crowd and into the goal.
"It's nice to go into the half up -- it brings morale to the team," Burdick said.
Skyview continued to mount pressure to start the second half. A would-be game-tying goal by the Kardinals was called back 12 minutes into the half, and on the ensuing trip down the field, Skyview's Trevor Barber was taken down in the Kenai penalty area.
Barber drilled the penalty kick, and Keith Massey made it a 4-1 game three minutes later with a hard shot from 15 yards out. Burdick earned an assist on the play.
Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said his squad played a much better second half despite playing into the wind.
"We suckered ourselves into playing long ball. When you get the wind at your back, you get greedy," Carpenter said.
In the second half, Carpenter said, the Panthers did a much better job of controlling the ball and passing to teammates.
"Once they did that, they controlled the game," Carpenter said.
Burdick finished off the scoring with 20 minutes left in the match, taking a deft touch on a ball played into the Kenai penalty area to beat a defender, then sliding his shot past the Kenai goalkeeper.
Burdick said part of the reason the Panthers looked so in sync on the field had to do with their preseason training regimen.
"When we were doing conditioning indoors, we sang songs in the hallways as a team," Burdick said. "We figured that would help us come together."
The Panthers had a solid effort from front to back, with Shaun Reeve anchoring the defense and goalkeeper Matt Stalnik making several good saves.
For their part, the Kardinals (0-2-0) also are working on coming together, though with so many new faces on the roster, coach David Landry said it will take a little time. Kenai is playing catch-up as Tuesday's match was just the Kardinals' second of the season, while Skyview has played six.
"We're still learning who we are and where everyone is," Landry said. "That's one of the things we did at halftime -- we had everybody introduce themselves to each other.
"We had moments where we played the kind of soccer we want to play. It takes time. Hopefully, by the time regions come along, we'll be ready to give somebody a hard time."
Skyview girls 1, Kenai Central 1
Neither team was able to convert on several good scoring chances through the first half, but the Panthers finally found the back of the net 20 minutes into the second half.
Marina Holt netted Skyview's goal with a hard shot from just inside the penalty area, assisted by Jenny Carpenter.
"That's typical for us -- it's hard for us to score goals," said Skyview coach Tony Lewis. "We scored on the most difficult shot of the evening. Ironically, we make that one, but we miss the open nets."
The Kardinals also had their troubles finding the back of the net, but were able to tie the match with a goal set up by a corner kick 29 minutes into the second half.
"We won the ball, we had two post shots, we had balls roll across in front of the goal -- our work is having to learn to finish those balls," said Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen, adding that he was pleased with his squad in all facets of the game.
Verkuilen pointed to a solid effort on defense by Janna Krein and several good shots taken by Rachel Knowles.
Lewis said he was impressed by the effort of forward Ginny Berg as well as Laura Smith at sweeper.
"Our midfield was doing really good," Berg said of why she was getting so many good scoring chances. "They created a lot of opportunities for us, and had some really good passing.
"At the beginning of the year, we were playing kickball a little bit. This game, we had a purpose for where we were playing the ball."
Kenai Central (0-1-1 overall, 0-1-0 in the division) hosts Homer today while Skyview (2-3-1, 0-1-1) visits Homer Thursday.
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