The Nikiski High School girls soccer team finished its Region III Southern Division schedule without a loss to a peninsula team, defeating the visiting Skyview Panthers 2-1 in Wednesday's rainy conditions.
The Skyview High School boys also remained unbeaten in Southern Division competition, playing to a hard-fought one-goal draw with the host Bulldogs.
"It was a little slippery out there, but we didn't really execute in front of goal like we did yesterday (against Soldotna)," said Skyview's David Quelland. "We didn't keep our shots down, and we scored an own-goal on ourselves."
The first goal of the match went to Nikiski, courtesy of the own-goal, when Bulldogs' Kevin Gerke ripped a shot from the top left side of the Skyview penalty area. The shot was well placed, and a Skyview defender got a foot on the ball to redirect the shot away from the diving save attempt by keeper Mike Bell in the seventh minute.
The Bulldogs, behind some excellent play in goal by Josh Winters and some heroic goal-line stands, made their lead stand up 15 minutes into the second half, when Quelland played a long floating ball into the Nikiski box. Josh Rowell made a run in front of Winters, and while he didn't get a head on the ball, he did draw enough attention from the Nikiski defense for the ball to slip into the back of the net.
The Panthers continued to push forward looking for the go-ahead goal, but several shots curled just wide of the net.
Nikiski, meanwhile, was able to spring players through the Skyview defense for three breakaway chances, but Bell proved up to the task on each occasion.
"You've got to respect Nikiski's speed. They challenged us," said Skyview coach Dave Carpenter.
Nikiski coach James Coburn credited his defense with keeping Skyview's attack at bay. Chuck Seater made the most of his first start on defense, and Ryan Swanson played well at sweeper. Coburn said that Rustin Hitchcock's solid play in the middle made the difference for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are now 2-2-1 while Skyview also has a level record at 3-3-1.
Amanda Weaver powered the Nikiski girls with a pair of goals, netting the matchwinner late in the second half.
Weaver's second goal came just minutes after a hard shot by Joy Carr rattled off the crossbar, and but for the quick reflexes of Skyview goalkeeper Katie Lockwood, was very nearly knocked into the Panthers' goal.
Nikiski coach Richard Kelso said he was pleased to see his players creating the same scoring opportunities they've been working on in practice.
"Sometimes you're happy to go for a draw, but our attacks have been different this year," Kelso said, adding that his players have been able to determine when to push forward, and when to hang back and play defense.
The result has been a 3-0-2 mark against the other five teams on the peninsula.
"My goal was just to get to regions. This is way beyond my goal," Kelso said. "The skill level is just going up and up."
Kelso said the strength of his team has been right up the middle, starting with Karen Rabung in goal. Kelso also credited Amber Delago and Megan Mazurek with a solid match, as well as Kayle Meyer.
Skyview coach Tony Lewis said the Panthers created some great opportunities in the first half, but got away from their game plan later in the match.
"We continue to struggle in the offensive third," Lewis said. "In the first 10 or 15 minutes, we played well, and strung some passes together. After that, we got into a kickball game."
The Panthers fall to 2-5 overall.
Nikiski begins its swing through the Valley today at Colony while Skyview hosts Homer in a critical Southern Division match.
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