When it comes to getting scoring from his midfielders, Kenai girls soccer coach Dan Verkuilen must feel a little bit like a parent encouraging children to clear their plates of Brussels sprouts and lima beans.
All year, the Kenai coach has been assuring his midfielders, "Try scoring, and you'll like it."
Saturday, the message got through in host Kenai's 7-0 victory over Houston, especially to center midfielder Jamie Montgomery.
Montgomery, a sophomore, scored the first goal of her high school career in the game. She decided she liked it so much that she went on to collect another two goals to complete her hat trick.
In the boys game, the Kardinals put 18 shots on net to the Hawks' six, but weren't able to sew up the game until Joel Reemtsma gave them a 2-0 lead with about three minutes remaining.
The girls game didn't provide nearly as much suspense because Kenai had a 5-0 lead at halftime.
"We're trying to work on taking more shots from farther out," Montgomery said. "That's our goal this year."
In addition to her three goals, Montgomery also clanged a pair of rockets off the crossbar. One came after a nifty run through the center of the field. The other came on a direct kick from just outside the 18-yard line.
"Jamie has developed a strong shot with both of her feet," Verkuilen said. "As far as being able to use both feet, I think she's one of the best players in the region."
Usually, the Kardinals rely on forwards Jessi Reilly and Cory Hershberger for scoring. Reilly more than did her part Saturday, netting a pair of goals and assisting on one of Montgomery's tallies.
But Hershberger was down in the Lower 48 looking at colleges, so there was some slack to pick up.
"One of the things we wanted to work on was getting some scoring from our midfielders," Verkuilen said. "If the defense has to start worrying about the midfielders scoring, it will mean Reilly and Hershberger get more room."
Senior Kristi Knudsen, who had four wisdom teeth pulled Monday, added a goal and an assist for the Kardinals.
Kenai's final goal came from keeper Stephanie Arbelovsky. Since the Hawks had trouble mounting an attack all day, striking her penalty kick just inside the right post comprised most of the day's work for the senior keeper.
Verkuilen also credited senior Lindsey Mida with a solid game, saying her hard work and constant attendance at practice is starting to pay off on the pitch.
The Kenai girls improved their record overall and in Region III to 5-1, while Houston dropped to 1-3-1.
Kenai boys 2, Houston 0
The tone in this game was set early. About five minutes in, Reemtsma slammed a well-taken shot off the right post. Just a minute later, Hawks keeper Bodie Scott-Orman made a sprawling save to keep the Kardinals from converting a cross.
The pattern of Kenai getting great chances and Scott-Orman turning them away would continue throughout the game, especially when the Kardinals had the wind in the first half.
Scott-Orman made 12 saves in the first half, while Kenai keeper Sean Nuccio made just one.
"He had a terrific game," Kenai boys coach Dave Landry said of Scott-Orman. "There were about three or four sure goals that he was able to save."
The Kardinals finally solved Scott-Orman 11 minutes into the game, when sophomore Richard Alexander crossed the ball to a wide-open Reemtsma in the middle of the penalty box.
Reemstma struck a solid shot on net that Scott-Orman had to dive to his left to save. The rebound landed right on the boot of freshman Owen Brewer, who tapped the ball into the empty net.
From that point, nervous moments ensued on the Kenai sideline. As Scott-Orman continued to turn aside chances, the fear was that Houston would slip in a goal and steal a tie.
"This late in the season, we need all the points we can get in the standings," Landry said. "We didn't want a tie. That's why getting more than a one-goal lead was important."
Several times, it looked as if the Hawks would get the equalizer, but each time Kenai keeper Sean Nuccio, who finished with six saves, was up to the task.
"We had two or three good ones that could have been finished," Houston coach Aaron Tanner said.
In the second half, Reemtsma had a breakaway 11 minutes in only to be frustrated again by Scott-Orman. Then, 33 minutes into the second frame Cory Janson floated a shot by Scott-Orman that bounded off the crossbar.
Reemtsma finally found a way to finish with 37 minutes gone in the second half. A bouncing through ball found him on the run 12 yards in front of the net. When Scott-Orman charged, Reemtsma touched the ball by him using his knee.
"That second goal is the one that broke our backs," Tanner said.
Landry gave credit to midfielders Ryan Whiteley and Devon Anderson for keeping the majority of play on the Hawks' side of the field.
Kenai improved to 3-3 in the region and overall, while Houston dropped to 1-4.
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