The Kenai Central High School boys and girls soccer teams played their first games on the peninsula this season with positive results as both squads posted 3-0 Region III Southern Division victories over Nikiski Friday.
"We were very, very lucky. Nikiski played a terrific game," said Kenai boys coach David Landry.
In fact, the Kardinals scored their first goal on a penalty kick while the Bulldogs had two opportunities to tie the game on penalty kicks of their own but were unable to convert either chance.
"We had our chances to score," said Nikiski boys coach Jim Coburn. "Sometimes if you score, you give yourself a little more energy, and a little more focus."
Dusty Ward put the Kardinals on the scoreboard in the 28th minute with a nicely placed penalty kick that was awarded when a Kenai player was impeded while chasing down a ball played into the Nikiski penalty area.
Kenai took its 1-0 lead into the half, but the Bulldogs had their first chance to tie the game just two minutes into the second half when a Kenai player was whistled for handling the ball in the penalty area.
Nikiski's Robert Doty took the penalty kick, but his shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from the net, rather than in, giving Kenai goalkeeper Tyler Morris a chance to pounce on it.
The Bulldogs were awarded another penalty kick midway through the second half, but again had trouble converting. Doty's initial bid hit the crossbar, but he was given another chance as the referee had not yet blown the whistle for play to restart.
Doty tried to place his second shot low and toward the post, but didn't get enough power behind the shot and Morris was able to get to the ball before it crossed the line.
The Kardinals then came right back to score as Cory Whiteley finished off a corner kick in the 62nd minute.
Nikiski's Chaunsy Seater and Kenai's Jose Araya tangle for the ball Friday at Nikiski.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Nikiski continued to battle, but just couldn't find the back of the net.
Kenai added a third goal with 10 minutes left to play as Harrison Deever made a nice touch from 10 yards out to knock the ball home.
"We just picked up the intensity a lot and focused more (in the second half)," Whiteley said. "We started playing more as a team."
Whiteley said the Kardinals' first touch on the ball was good, allowing the team to spread the field out and create more scoring opportunities. He also said the team communicated well on the field.
"We're still young, still trying to find where everyone goes, but after that game, we have a pretty good idea," Whiteley said.
Coburn said he continues to be impressed with his team's work ethic, from his keeper all the way forward.
"We're trying to be a team, and always work together and support each other with respect," Coburn said. "We're coming together well. I think these guys will improve as the season goes on."
The Kenai and Nikiski girls game became a battle in the midfield as both teams found ways to shut down their opponents' attacks.
Nikiski coach Richard Kelso described it as a game of half chances, though, and the Kardinals were able to capitalize on a pair of them in the first half.
Kenai's first goal came off the foot of Laura Moore in the 18th minute after Taylor Brewer was able to get past Nikiski's wing defender with a little burst of speed and play a cross into the box.
Brewer made it 2-0 with seven minutes to play in the half, taking a direct kick from 30 yards out and lofting it toward the net. Nikiski keeper Sarah Herrin was able to get her fingertips on the ball, but couldn't get enough of it to tip it out of harm's way.
The Bulldogs limited Kenai's chances through most of the second half Kenai's defense did the same but the Kardinals were able to slip in one more goal on an arcing shot by Rochelle Stretch with five minutes left to play.
Kelso said he liked the play of defender Tina Patterson, and also was pleased with his side's scrappiness in midfield behind the play of Sasha Auldridge, Racheal Gerke, Whitney Hitchcock and Genni Darr. Kenai was never able to gain a decisive edge in the match, something he attributed to the hard play of that group.
Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen said he'd like to see his players be a little more aggressive, especially up front, in order to turn a few more of those half chances into solid bids on goal.
"I'm happy with the win, but I'm wanting to get more goals in situations when we have opportunities," Verkuilen said.
Kenai girls 7, Seward 1
Seward struck first, but it was Kenai who got the last laugh Saturday, racking up seven unanswered goals to easily defeat the visiting Seahawks in Region III Southern Division action.
After Seward snuck in an early goal, Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said his squad reacted by picking up the intensity level.
"That kind of woke them up," Verkuilen said.
The Kardinals were led by Keely Boyle, who had a hat trick, and Laura Moore, who added two goals.
"It was a fun game," Verkuilen said. "It was nice to be able to finish and get that feeling of scoring goals."
Kenai boys 2, Seward 2
Kenai coach David Landry described the result as disappointing, but credited the Seahawks with "a whale of a game."
Seward's Blake Pullins put his squad up 1-0 10 minutes before the half.
Landry said he challenged his team to pick things up in the second half after an indifferent first half, and the Kardinals responded with a goal by Joel Christianson, assisted by Cory Whiteley, four minutes after the break.
Landry said his side fired shot after shot on the Seward goal through the second half, but hit the post three or four times and sent several shots just wide of the mark while the Seward goalkeeper did everything he could to keep his team in the game.
Jose Araya finally put one away for the Kardinals, but the Seahawks came right back down the field off the kickoff. A Seward player was brought down in the box and the Seahawks were awarded a penalty kick.
Kenai goalkeeper Tyler Morris made a save on the penalty kick, but the Seahawks pounced on the rebound and poked it home to tie the match.
The Kardinals are 1-2-2 overall and visit Homer for a crucial Region III Southern Division match Tuesday.
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