The Homer girls soccer team has two kinds of losses to worry about games and players.
The Mariners fared just fine on the games front Wednesday, taking a 2-0 decision over host Nikiski in Region III Southern Division action.
On the players front, however, the Mariners were not as fortunate. Bailey Lowney, one of Homer's top scoring threats, came out of the game with a thigh contusion, while Amanda Conley, another striker capable of creating chances, aggravated an ankle injury.
"We're getting banged up," Homer coach Mickey Todd said. "It's hard to play a lot of games in such a short period of time.
"Subbing kids in and out all the time doesn't help the play, but it does help kids keep their legs."
Both Nikiski and Homer are in tough stretches of their schedule where games are being played nearly every day. The Mariners played Kenai Tuesday and will play Wasilla Thursday and Seward Saturday. Nikiski will play Ketchikan Thursday, Seward Friday and Wasilla Saturday.
"What matters now is just trying to get enough wins to qualify for the region tournament and get a good seed, because seeding makes a big difference," Todd said. "Then, once we get to the region tournament, hopefully we'll be healthy."
Soldotna, Kenai and Homer, which now is 2-0-1 in the Southern Division, will fight it out for the top seed. Nikiski, now 0-3-1 in the Southern Division, is in a fight with Skyview and Seward just to qualify for the tournament.
The Bulldogs sent a message to Skyview and Seward that they will not give up a region spot easily with their tenacious play Wednesday.
Homer's skill and organization has given teams fits all year, such as when the Mariners defeated Skyview 7-1. Wednesday, Nikiski was able to interrupt Homer's attack by putting a lot of pressure on the ball.
"Nikiski's always stingy with their goals," Todd said. "We had better ballhandling skills, but Richard always has them playing great defense."
The Mariners struck just 13 minutes into the game on a perfectly executed corner kick. Claire Siekaniec took the kick and crossed the ball to Lowney, who deposited it in the back of the net with her head.
In the 30th minute, Homer struck again. Lowney carried the ball up the right side and crossed the ball into the penalty box. Chantrelle Cousins acted like she was going to play the ball, but let it roll through to Candi Fidino, who smacked it into the net.
"The thing that makes Nikiski so tough to play is they don't put their heads down," Todd said. "We scored one goal, and they keep coming. We score again, and they keep playing just as hard."
Nikiski created more quality scoring chances than Homer in the first six minutes of the second half. On one, Whitney Hitchcock played a nice free kick into the penalty area and Nikiski attackers just missed converting it.
On another, Katrina Johns blew past a Homer defender and the goalie to collect a long ball, but didn't quite have the angle she needed to put the ball in the open net.
Stacey Griffel also put some pressure on Homer.
"It's been all about those little half chances for us this year," Kelso said. "We practice those all the time, but it's hard to score in the game."
Kelso said his team played defensively in the first half. He gave credit to Sasha Auldridge, Hitchcock and Racheal Gerke for bringing the fight to the midfield in the second half. This kept Siekaniec and Erika Gavenus, Homer's talented freshmen midfielders, from controlling so much of the action.
Skyview boys 4, Ketchikan 0
Trevor Barber notched a hat trick as the host Panthers shut out Ketchikan in a nonconference match Wednesday.
Barber scored eight minutes into the game unassisted, then scored 14 minutes later on an assist from Chatchay Apaipak. Six minutes into the second half, Barber completed his hat trick on a cross from Elliott Gauthier.
Jason Smith had the other goal for the Panthers (6-1 overall) on an assist from Travis Mercier.
"The two teams matched up pretty well, but we were a little dominant in the midfield," Carpenter said.
The coach also liked the way his team moved the ball around and stayed organized.
Ketchikan girls 2, Skyview 0
Two goals in the second half lifted the Kings past the Panthers in a nonconference match Wednesday.
"We had some good opportunities in the first half and we couldn't capitalize," Skyview coach Tony Lewis said after his team fell to 1-5-1. "We also had a couple of good ones in the second half.
"Early in the season, it seemed like we were scoring on all of our good opportunities. Lately, we can't put one away. That's been the difference."
Lewis said forwards Marina Holt and Amber Kunz did a good job creating chances.
He also said Anna Evanson came into her own at the stopper position during the game.
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