Palmer booters post victories over Nikiski

Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Palmer girls and boys soccer teams swept host Nikiski in Northern Lights Conference action Friday.

In the girls game, Palmer junior Leslie Berberich scored two goals to lead the Moose to a 2-1 victory. Amber Delago had Nikiski's goal.

In the boys game, Palmer scored two goals within two minutes of each other in the second half to pull out a 2-0 win. Devon Conroy and Ben Beetch had the goals for the Moose.

The wind played a factor in the girls game. Nikiski started the game with the wind at its back and did most of the attacking in the first part of the first half.

It was Palmer that scored the first goal, though. With 15 minutes elapsed, senior Daysha Anderson played a corner kick into the Nikiski penalty area. Nikiski goalie Sarah Herrin and several defenders tried to cut the ball off before it go to the mouth of the goal, but they couldn't. Berberich was waiting in front of the goal and tapped the ball in.

Delago and Stacey Griffel put together some nice combinations up front in the first half for the Bulldogs. One of those combinations paid off 26 minutes into the half, when Griffel crossed to Delago, who collected the ball and drove it into the net.

Delago continued to cause problems for the Palmer defense. At the 34-minute mark, she earned a penalty kick when she was fouled trying to get to a cross from Clare Bennett.

Bennett took the penalty kick, but clanged it off the side post and then missed the rebound opportunity.

Nikiski coach Richard Kelso said Bennett did everything right with the kick — picking out a spot and hammering the ball there — she just had bad luck.

"If it weren't for a lick of paint, it would have been different," Kelso said.

Palmer coach Brian Fish said goalie Brook Gardner also stopped a penalty kick against Skyview.

"She's been our lucky horseshoe," said Fish after his team improved to 3-1-2 overall.

Just two minutes later, Palmer scored what would be the game-winning goal. Arianna Cruz found Berberich in the box. Berberich created some space with a nice touch, then provided another sure finish.

"They only had two good chances in the first half, but they made both of them," Kelso said. "That's what makes them so good."

Playing against the wind in the second half, Nikiski struggled to get the ball to Palmer's net. The Bulldogs' only good chance came with two minutes left in the game, when Delago found Griffel with a nice through ball. However, Gardner turned back Griffel's bid with a diving save.

Fish said his young defense has been good all year, and the second half Friday was no exception. Kelso said his team, which is now 2-2 overall, continues to show more skill as the season wears on.

Palmer boys 2, Nikiski 0

Except for a brief period in the second half, the Bulldogs (2-3 overall) held up well against the Moose (3-2-1 overall).

Nikiski was missing two offensive players due to injury and another one due to ineligibility, so the Bulldogs struggled to put together quality chances all evening.

On defense, Nikiski's Robert Doty was making his first start at sweeper in his high school career. Nikiski coach Jim Coburn said Doty, along with defenders Joe Keith and Jordan McCaughey, did a great job of slowing Palmer's attack.

"I'm really happy with how that worked," Coburn said of starting Doty at sweeper. "To hold a team like Palmer scoreless for a half is a big accomplishment."

Palmer coach Tom Harrison said his team was never able to settle into the passing style of play that the Moose prefer.

"We've been a good passing team thus far this season," Harrison said. "I don't feel we passed the ball very well tonight. Nikiski has to get some of the credit for that. They have a lot of good athletes out there and they play hard."

At the 19-minute mark of the second half, Palmer was finally able to string some passes together, resulting in a score. Freshman Andy Gardner started the passing on the wing and Palmer eventually worked the ball into the penalty area, where Jared Berberich dished to Conroy for an open shot right on the goal's doorstep.

Two minutes later, Beetch gave the Moose an insurance goal with a score that had nothing to do with passing. Nikiski cleared the ball to Beetch, who picked it up, beat a couple of defenders, then made a shot from the top of the penalty area.

Nikiski had just 11 varsity players. All the subs were swinging up from junior varsity. Coburn said Travis McGahan, Ben Kellie and Israel Blatchford did a good job in the midfield, plus he said the three freshmen he used played well, but the Bulldogs could not mount much of a scoring punch.

"It was good experience for us," Coburn said. "We got the younger players some good experience and we saw our defense can stand up to a team like Palmer."

Colony boys 4, Nikiski 0

The Knights picked up a Northern Lights Conference victory Saturday over the host Bulldogs.

Nikiski started the game without two starters, then lost another starter to injury during the game. Coburn said that made it tough to compete with Colony — a team he called the best team the Bulldogs have played this season.

Coburn said the defense, led by Doty at sweeper, played well until late in the game.

Nikiski girls 2, Colony 2

The Bulldogs kept the Knights winless on their three-game trip to the peninsula.

Colony put the first goal of the game on the board early in the first half, but Nikiski coach Richard Kelso said his squad showed great character to level the match.

"We slowly pegged them back and scored a nice goal," Kelso said.

Amber Delago netted the goal, and the teams went into the half with the score tied at one.

Kristen Frederic put the Bulldogs up 2-1 in the second half, but Kelso said his team got caught not being able to clear the ball late in the match and Colony took advantage with 10 minutes to play.

"The girls stepped up and worked hard," Kelso said.

Kelso said Whitney Hitchcock and Racheal Gerke put together a good performance in the midfield while Sarah Herrin played well in goal for Nikiski.

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