Nikiski clinches NLC berth

Posted: Thursday, May 05, 2005

The Nikiski High School girls soccer team claimed a berth in the Northern Lights Conference tournament, defeating Soldotna 3-0 Wednesday in a key NLC-Southern Division match at Soldotna. We're going to regions for sure — that's nice, said Nikiski midfielder Whitney Hitchcock following the match.

The win boosts Nikiski's record to 3-2-1 overall and 3-0 in the division, tying the Bulldogs with Kenai atop the South standings.

The loss drops the Stars to 2-3 overall and 0-3 in the division. The Stars will be playing their final two division matches with their backs to the wall as they face Seward Saturday and Skyview Monday, with a nondivision game against Wasilla Friday.

The Bulldogs visit Kenai today, host Houston in a nondivision match Friday and finish the regular season at Homer Saturday.

Thankfully, we took care of business today, Nikiski coach Richard Kelso said following Wednesday's match.

Amber Huhndorf netted the first goal of the match for the Bulldogs, striking in the 32nd minute. A hard Nikiski shot was deflected by the Soldotna defense, but Huhndorf was in good position and fired home the rebound from just outside the 6-yard box.

Soldotna had what would have been the tying goal disallowed six minutes into the second half when a player was called for handling the ball after falling down in a crowd in front of the Nikiski goal, and the Stars had another sterling chance turned aside when Nikiski goalkeeper Sarah Herrin got her fingertips on a Soldotna direct kick labeled for the upper corner of the Bulldogs goal in the 60th minute. Herrin tipped the ball just over the crossbar, and the Bulldogs were able to defend the ensuing corner kick.

The Bulldogs responded with a goal in the 69th minute when Stacey Griffel was able to bang a wide-angle shot past the Stars keeper, and Amber Delago made it 3-0 six minutes later from the top of the penalty area, tucking a nice shot under the crossbar. The girls knew they wanted to win this one for regions. Their coach would have been happy with 1-nil, Kelso said of the offensive effort.

Kelso said his team was determined to beat Soldotna to every ball and added that his team has both a high level of commitment as well as a high level of skill.

Any coach would love a team that had this sort of commitment, Kelso said. Hitchcock praised her goalkeeper — Herrin also came up with a big save in the first half, snaring a Soldotna header off a corner kick — and was excited to see each of the starting forwards score a goal. Sarah did awesome tonight. You couldn't ask for anything more out of a goalkeeper, Hitchcock said.

... The forwards did excellent. That's nice when your starting forwards can all get a goal.

Hitchcock said that even with qualifying for the conference tournament out of the way, the Bulldogs would continue to take things one game at a time. We're going into (today) with a win, and then, hopefully, the next game. We're just looking at Kenai now. We're focusing on them even though we have three more games this week, Hitchcock said.

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