Dusty Ward scored a pair of second-half goals and the Kenai Central High School boys soccer team upset Juneau-Douglas 2-0 in a nonconference match Wednesday in Kenai.
Also Wednesday, the Juneau-Douglas girls team made the most of blustery conditions to defeat the host Kardinals 4-1.
“Very surprising,” Kenai boys coach David Landry said of the result. “This is a side we were hoping to run into to get a barometer of where we are. At this time, it looks like we’re moving in a positive direction.”
Front to back, the Crimson Bears certainly were the more skilled team and dictated the pace of play for much of the match. However, Kenai’s defense marked well, goalkeeper Justin Wisniewski came up with save after save and Juneau-Douglas failed to capitalize on several good scoring opportunities, including a penalty kick in the 45th minute.
Meanwhile Kenai, playing into the wind in the first half, kept Juneau-Douglas at bay for the first 40 minutes and took advantage of the opportunities it got with the wind at its back in the second half.
Ward put Kenai on the board midway through the second half when he fielded a throw-in from Tyler Smith. Ward managed to hang onto the ball through a wall of defenders at the top of the Juneau penalty area, then neatly placed his shot past the Bears’ goalkeeper.
Ward made it 2-0 with five minutes left in the match when he rocketed a shot from 25 yards out. The shot caught the Juneau keeper leaning the wrong way, and while he got his hands on the ball, he couldn’t prevent it from going into the goal.
“It’s exciting. We’re just trying to improve each game,” Ward said.
Key for the Kardinals was the defensive effort of Jake Malanaphy in keeping Juneau from getting too many clean shots on goal.
Landry also was pleased with the play of wing players Cory Toombs and McKenan Steinbeck, as well as that of midfielders Jeremy Narlock and Tyler Smith.
The challenge for Kenai is to continue to play at the same level for the rest of the regular season. The Kardinals face Seward Friday and Soldotna Saturday.
“In some games, we’ve played down to our opponents,” Wisniewski said. “When we can play up, that’s good. Now we know how good we can play.”
Juneau-Douglas girls 4, Kenai 1
The Kardinals held their own and hopefully learned a thing or two against one of the top teams in the state Wednesday.
“My girls are smart. They’ll take what they learned today and use it,” said Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen.
The Crimson Bears scored in the fifth minute when Kirstin Jorgensen popped a ball up in the Kenai penalty area. With a stiff wind blowing toward the Kenai goal, the ball carried over goalkeeper Kyla Steward and into the goal.
Kenai tied the match five minutes later when a cross from Sami Bidwell took a deflection in the Juneau penalty area and got past the Bears’ goalkeeper, Kayla Walton.
That would be all the Bears would give up, though, and Juneau regained its lead in the 12th minute. Steward did well to parry away a hard shot on a free kick from 30 yards out, but Juneau’s Sarah Christianson was there to knock in the rebound.
Christianson scored again eight minutes into the second half as Juneau put together a quick counter after the Kardinals rattled a shot off the crossbar. Christianson finished off a cross from Gretchen Dierking.
Dierking scored the final goal of the match off a cross from Margaret Sekona in the 56th minute.
“It was tough conditions. We’re definitely not used to it,” said Juneau coach Sandi Wagner. “We play in wind, but not this kind of wind.
“When we kept the ball on the ground, we played pretty well. It was a good learning experience for us.”
Verkuilen said it was a good opportunity for his team to learn to challenge every ball.
“The defense worked hard. I think our defense played well, and what I liked was that we didn’t lay off. We had pressure in their end, we just didn’t put together enough passes. It was fun to watch the skill level go up, though,” Verkuilen said.
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