Kenai's Branda Gabriel fouls Nikiski's Amber Huhndorf while trying to gain control of the ball in the second half during Thursday's game at Kenai.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
The Kenai Central girls soccer team kept right on rolling Thursday night.
The host Kardinals defeated Nikiski 2-0 in Northern Lights Conference-Southern Division action for their fifth straight victory. In the boys game, Kenai picked up a 2-1 victory.
"We just want to keep things going," said senior forward Rochelle Stretch. "We're doing awesome, but we still feel like we're getting better and better every day."
The game matched the two remaining teams undefeated in Southern Division action. With the victory, Kenai improves to 4-0 in the Southern Division. The Kards have a chance to wrap up an undefeated run in the Southern Division today when they travel to face Seward.
Nikiski, now 3-1 in the Southern Division, wraps up its Southern Division schedule Saturday in Homer.
The Kardinals put pressure on Nikiski's end of the field throughout the entire match Thursday. The Kardinals put 13 shots on Nikiski's net, while Nikiski had just two shots on Kenai's net.
Although the Kardinals spent the entire game knocking on the door, Nikiski coach Richard Kelso was happy with the job his team did in keeping the Kardinals from getting super opportunities on Nikiski's net.
On the flip side, Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said the one area his team needs to improve on right now is finishing.
"We're going to work on finishing next week in practice before regions," Verkuilen said. "It's a difficult part of the game.
"From the sidelines a lot of the time, it looks easy. But the players are dealing with angles, people in the way, tired legs and tough ground."
Thursday, the Bulldogs also had to deal with Sarah Herrin, who Verkuilen said is one of the best goalies in the state.
It took the best of scoring chances to defeat Herrin, who had 11 saves.
Kenai's first score came 36 minutes into the game. Chelsie Harris crossed the ball to Taylor Brewer, who held the ball at the top of the penalty area for a few seconds looking for a good shot.
When Brewer did fire, Herrin was there with a diving stop. Herrin did not catch the ball cleanly, though, and Stretch put in the rebound.
Kenai's second score came 13 minutes into the second half, when Stretch played a cross into the penalty area. Brewer got off a shot that didn't connect, but the ball bounded to Keely Boyle, who punched it into the back of the net.
Kelso gave credit to Jenni Garrison and Racheal Gerke for strong play in the midfield, and Amber Huhndorf credit for a strong effort up front.
For Kenai, Verkuilen was happy with the play of midfielders Haley Mishler, Karlyn Remsen and Harris. Samantha Calderwood also was doing a good job at her stopper position until she injured her ankle in the second half.
Kenai Central boys 2, Nikiski 1
Intajuch Passakom scored a goal in the closing minutes to give the Kardinals the Northern Lights Conference-Southern Division victory.
The victory moves Kenai's record to 2-2 in the Southern Division and clinches third place in the division for the Kardinals. Nikiski falls to 1-3 in the Southern Division. In order to make the conference tournament, the Bulldogs would have to beat Homer Saturday and have Soldotna lose to Seward and Skyview.
Cory Whiteley got the Kardinals on the board in the 60th minute when he scored on a cross from Passakom. In the 70th minute, Nikiski's Israel Blatchford equalized on a penalty kick. Kenai coach David Landry both teams had good chances on the goal in the final 10 minutes of the game.
"It was a very, very active last 10 minutes," Landry said. "Both sides were putting on all the pressure they could."
Finally, Passakom got the game winner after picking up a loose ball after a flurry of activity in the penalty area.
Landry said goalkeeper Justin Wisniewski had some terrific saves for his side. He also said Ryann Hansen came up big on defense and Dusty Ward was all over the place from his midfield position.
"I'm extremely pleased with the way the boys played," Landry said. "This was a senior side for Nikiski. They've been playing together a long time.
"My freshmen and sophomores held up to a tough challenge. Nikiski played their heads off, but my boys came through in a big game."
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