Skyview senior Ariel Mercier certainly isn’t the tallest player on the team.
She used every inch she has on Thursday, though.
Planted in the box on a direct kick, Mercier used her head to stake the Panthers to a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute, but two goals in the closing minutes of each half helped Palmer play to a 2-2 tie at Skyview High School.
“Ariel is one of our players that no matter where she’s at, she’s solid and you see the confidence overflowing when she plays soccer,” Skyview coach Ronnie Kier said. “She’s just a very critical part of this team.
“We’ve been working all this week on direct kicks and telling people to get heads on balls and try to be aggressive there in the box,” he added. “But for her to be the one to come out and she’s all of what, 5-2 maybe for her to get up there and get that head on the ball, that’s pretty special for her.”
After being pushed to the ground, junior Joanna Graves chipped a perfectly placed ball into the box where it bounced off Mercier’s head and over a charging Palmer goalkeeper Chelsea Beetch for the early advantage.
“It was a great play,” said Palmer coach Brian Fish. “A chip from just outside here and their player got the upper hand as far as positionwise and was able to get a head on it.”
But the Moose (2-2-1) knotted it in the 38th minute when junior forward Ashley Swetzof scrambled for the ball in front of the net and slipped it past Panthers keeper Chantel Schefers and into the corner of the net.
Sophomore Brittany Meyer put the Panthers (0-2-1) on top again in the 51st minute when she retrieved a pass near the end line and somehow muscled a shot across the goal line, over Beetch’s head and into the far side netting for a 2-1 lead.
“I was telling those girls that this is the first time in three years that I’ve seen the Skyview women’s program play soccer from passing to making runs to attacking goals to solid defense to solid goalkeeping and to get goals like that,” Kier said. “That’s what we struggled with the first two games, just not being able to score. We were getting shots off (Thursday) and those were two great goals for us.”
Once again, though, the Moose had another late answer.
One minute after getting injured but insisting on remaining in the game, sophomore Tess Anderson received a bouncing corner kick and shot it past Schefers, tying the game in the 72nd minute.
“She’s that kind of player that goes hard every single game, works hard for the ball,” Fish said. “She gets in a lot of those situations where she probably injures herself a little bit, but she’s a fighter so she keeps working through it.”
Skyview had a few solid chances in the closing minutes, but Beetch came up with some critical saves.
“She came up big for us and saved us at the end there,” Fish said. “She really held things together and kept us in it, so I think her teammates owe her something here.”
Despite not pulling out the victory, Kier believes this was a major step for his team.
“I think this is a huge springboard for them. They’re now figuring out that they can play with anyone,” he said. “Even though we didn’t come out of here with a win, I think a tie was just what they needed to set their minds into the fact that we can compete.”
Palmer boys 3, Skyview 0
Freshman Zach Zegzdryn converted two penalty shots and Brennan Bohman added a late tally in leading the Moose to a victory over the Panthers.
In a highly physical contest with numerous penalties and two yellow cards, Skyview was called for roughing inside the box, resulting in the first of Zegzdryn’s penalty kicks in the 35th minute.
Only three minutes later, the Panthers (1-2) were whistled again for pushing in the box and Palmer (3-2) owned a 2-0 edge at the break.
“Those kind of made it interesting. You’ve got to best adversity all the time and that was just our turn,” said Skyview coach David Carpenter. “They were bad timing. (The ref) had the perspective. I didn’t. So, it was his call, definitely.”
Palmer coach Kevin Dearborn also wouldn’t say if they were the correct calls.
“It helped us get started on the game. I’m not really sure how bad the calls were, but we’ll take them,” he said. “I don’t know if I saw them close enough to really make a call on that.”
Jake Bauer had the Panthers’ best scoring opportunity when he rifled a direct kick off the bottom of the left post in the 28th minute and Skyview followed with a barrage of shots in the ensuing minutes, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
Bohman’s goal then solidified the win when he put in a rebound with only five minutes to play.
“I don’t think they’re going to play their best games against the northern opponents. I think they know how to play the game where they’re going to lay it on the line against the south and just make sure they lock up a region spot,” Carpenter said. “Other than that, I think they’re going to play full of intensity and just try to organize and work on some things.
“Like I say, sometimes the ball just doesn’t go your way, the calls don’t go your way,” he added. “That was kind of what we had going (Thursday). It’s all right.”
Colony boys 3, Nikiski 0
The Knights defeated the Bulldogs on Thursday in Nikiski with two goals in the first half and a goal in the second half.
Nikiski freshman goalie Jordan Harrison had 16 saves, while Nikiski coach Jim Coburn said defenders Shane Hardesty, J.D. Hall, Wiley Bennett and Kenny Fagan played well. Coburn also said Nick Kellie did a nice job at midfield.
“We’re a young team that’s getting better,” Coburn said after falling to 0-5. “We’re looking to improve every week and we’re doing that. I’m really proud.”
The Colony girls rolled to victory by a score that was not available as the Clarion went to press. Nikiski’s lone goal came from Jennifer Lukassen on an assist from Clare Bennett.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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