The Homer High School boys soccer team came up with a Region III Southern Division win Wednesday, holding off Kenai Central for a 2-1 win in a rugged, rough and tumble match in Kenai.
Also Wednesday, the Kenai Central girls rallied for two second-half goals to defeat the Mariners 2-1.
"It was a tough match," said Nate Riedel after netting both of the Homer boys' goals from the penalty spot. "They really wanted to beat us. We were mentally tough. We didn't get mad when they fouled us, and they suffered for foul play."
Indeed, the Mariners were able to dictate play for much of the first half, but weren't able to put anything past Kenai keeper Tyler Morris during the run of play.
Riedel did have the opportunity to convert from the penalty spot in the 19th minute, though, after a Kenai player was whistled for a foul in the penalty area during a scrum resulting from a shot that rattled off the post and bounced around in front of the goal.
"It was a rugged match, physical on both sides," said Homer coach Ed Kelley. "We were lucky enough that some of that stuff happened in the box for us."
Homer carried its momentum into the second half, drawing its second penalty kick nine minutes into the frame. Riedel converted to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.
Kenai began to mount a challenge as the second half progressed though. The Kardinals had a golden opportunity slip away in the 12th minute when a pass from Jacob DeCloot found Micah Lillard all alone in front of the Homer goal, but Lillard's shot squirted wide of the net.
The Kardinals finally broke through 16 minutes into the second half, when Zack Hicks was able to poke home a ball played into the box by Cory Janson.
"We're starting to see some real progress," said Kenai coach David Landry. "We had a lot better one- and two-touch passing, but we're still not there with the first touch."
The Kardinals had several more great chances to tie the match, but couldn't find the back of the net. Kenai knocked a shot off the crossbar with six minutes left in the match, and Homer backup goalkeeper Jake Geragotelis did well coming off his line to stuff a breakaway two minutes later.
Geragotelis was filling in for starter Taber Webb, who was sidelined in the second half after a pair of violent collisions.
Despite being hit with a pair of penalty kicks, Landry said his defense played a solid game, with Janson anchoring the back along with Geoffrey Gemmell, James Haddock and Matt Mayer. Landry also was pleased with play in the midfield from Dan Silver and Cory Whitely.
"We're still looking for the perfect pieces," Landry said. "We're just one or two bounces away right now, but the guys are starting to believe."
Riedel also was appreciative of his team's defensive effort, keyed by Jeremy Andrews, Giuseppi Ricciardi, Van Hawkins, Joe Hoanin and Whitney Cushing.
"Their touch is more and more consistent. Each section is coming together," Riedel said. "We practiced playing with depth this week. We played to our wings, and had nice triangles in the midfield we beat them in the midfield."
The Kardinals, 0-3-0 overall and 0-2 in division play, host Wasilla Friday and Colony Saturday. Homer, 2-3 overall and 2-0 in the division, host Skyview today and visit Seward Saturday.
Kenai girls 2, Homer 1
After the Mariners had the better of things through the first half of play, the Kardinals were able to turn the tables in the second half, picking up a pair of goals to beat Homer in a Region III-Southern Division contest.
"In the first half, we were clumping like a group of gnats," said Kenai's Janna Krein. "In the second half, we spread out and worked our triangles and out give and goes. In the second half, we just really took it to em."
Kendra Stier put the Mariners on the board with her goal in the first half, but Kenai's halftime regrouping paid immediate dividends as the Kardinals leveled the score four minutes into the second half.
The Kardinals were able to work several give and goes up the left wing, and Rachel Knowles finished the play by lofting a shot toward the Homer goal. The ball held up in the wind and carried just over the fingertips of the Homer keeper and into the net.
Knowles struck again in the 18th minute, taking a touch on the ball before firing a left-footed blast on goal.
The Mariners responded with some good scoring chances in the closing 10 minutes, but the Mariners' shots either sailed wide of the goal, or were gobbled up by Kenai keeper Kassi Kiel.
Homer coach Mickey Todd said the Mariners played OK, but not great.
"Kenai put the pressure on, and we couldn't handle the pressure," Todd said.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said he's thrilled to see his squad maturing on the field.
"It was nice to see them turn it around mentally. I hope it's the next step," Verkuilen said.
Verkuilen credited Letecia Haynes and Krein with good defensive efforts and praised Knowles and Keely Boyle for their work in the Kenai attack.
The Mariners fall to 1-1 in division play and 1-4 overall while the Kardinals improve to 1-1-1 overall and 1-1 in the division.
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