The coaches knew it, the fans knew it, even Kari Frates knew it.
But the only person who truly matters didn’t agree.
The Kenai senior put a penalty shot wide of the net in the 48th minute of Friday’s game against visiting Skyview, but it wasn’t that simple.
The ref didn’t see it that way, reversing his initial call by saying the ball traveled through a hole in the side of the net.
“I didn’t see anyone cheer. I didn’t see anyone do anything,” said Panthers’ coach Ronnie Kier. “I was over here trying to question it, but obviously, he couldn’t hear me.”
After conversing with the sideline judges and examining the net, the ref reversed his call again, sending Skyview into a frenzy and eventually to a 0-0 deadlock with the unbeaten Kardinals.
“Credit to them for getting together and making the right call,” Kier said.
Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen asked Frates if she scored and she told him she hadn’t, which was obvious by her dejected reaction following the miss.
I said, “Go tell the ref what you did,” he said, adding she was on her way out when the call was overturned. “Those are the kind of things ... sometimes that’s your one break in a game.”
It certainly was for the Panthers (2-3-2), who dominated the first half with three solid scoring opportunities in the first 21 minutes alone.
“We had scoring chances,” Kier said. “We’re knocking at the door and they’re starting to sense it.”
Skyview came out strong following the blown penalty kick with Brittany Meyer clanking a shot off the crossbar, but Kenai also had a close call when Taylor Brewer received a pass in the middle of the box, cut outside and chipped the ball over the net in the 71st minute.Shelby Daly also tried her best to put Kenai ahead with three shots in the final few minutes, but Skyview keeper Chantel Schefers remained a force between the pipes.
“Our keeper came out and just made it her goal to play a complete game. And that’s exactly what she did,” Kier said. “You can’t ask for a better game. Obviously, you could ask for a goal and we had a couple that bounced off the crossbar and what not. These girls are playing well.”
With their dominating victory over Nikiski on Thursday, a draw against the Kardinals and a win over Ketchikan on Saturday, the Panthers should be region-bound with their surprisingly hot play.
“Each game that we progress during the season, it seems like we’re picking up new things that we’re trying to teach them at practice and they’re using it well. Each game you find something new that we’ve just improved on,” Kier said. “The whole goal is to get into regions, and I think if we can get into regions and peak at that time, we’ll be fine. They’re starting to see that.”
The Kardinals’ goal, apparent by their postgame chant, is to qualify for state and Friday’s battle was a good tuneup.
“They have really aggressive play. That’s probably the first time I’ve seen Skyview really attack like that,” Verkuilen said. “They had confidence and they’ve got a good senior-level team. It showed with leadership. It was nice to actually have them play at that level.”
Kenai boys 2, Skyview 0
Senior Dusty Ward scored twice and junior keeper Justin Wisniewski made some spectacular saves in holding off the Panthers.
Making things worse for Skyview was a season-ending injury to junior captain Eric Dolphin, who broke his collarbone in the 10th minute of the contest.
“It’s been that year,” said Panthers’ coach David Carpenter.
Skyview’s best opportunity came in the 14th minute when Jake Bauer dribbled towards the net from the left side and connected on a hard shot that was saved with one arm by a diving Wisniewski.
The junior goalie made another great save only eight minutes later when he tipped a long direct kick by Bauer over the net.
“He’s the class of the state. He’s started every game since he was a freshman,” said Kardinals’ coach David Landry. “He’s not one of the best, he is the best. I’m willing to stake my career on that.
“Fundamentally, he is as precise as you’re going to find,” he added. “He’s going to be a tough one. I see him playing at the next level. We’re just happy to have him around now.”
As Skyview was scrambling to clear a loose ball in the 31st minute, Kenai junior Cory Toombs sent a shot into the box that Skyview keeper Tanner Hansen tipped right to Ward, who easily tapped it in for a 1-0 advantage.
He struck again in the 74th minute when freshman Justin Calhoun heeled a ball behind him and into the box where Ward corralled it and slid it past a diving Hansen.
“We could have scored a great deal more than what we’re doing right now. But we’ll just take whatever we can get,” Landry said. “Little by little, we’re getting where we want to be with these kids.”
He’s still waiting for somebody to put their body on the line, though.
“For our purposes, it’s just a matter of finishing. We’re getting all kinds of balls across. We’re just looking for somebody who’s going to be courageous and try and put a header, put some part of their body on the ball. Until that happens, they’re going to go unrewarded indefinitely.”
Skyview had its chances, too, with Buck Kunz sending a breakaway shot sailing over the net in the 51st minute.
“I’m real pleased with the way we played against them,” Carpenter said. “We had a lot more enthusiasm (Friday) than we did (Thursday in a loss to Nikiski). I think we’re down to the wire now. So, we better figure something out.”
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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