It's tempting to say the Kenai Central girls soccer team notched a 4-0 victory at Skyview on Thursday due to Holly Perkins and Casey Coupchiak.
After all, Perkins had three goals and an assist, while Coupchiak added a goal and two assists in the Northern Lights Conference Southern Division contest. But more than two players decide a game. After all, Skyview has a dynamic duo of its own in the high-scoring Amanda Millay and assist machine Joanna Graves, and the Panthers came up short.
"We have a team that's fairly balanced," Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said after the Kards improved to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Southern Division. "We just had our team play their positions and try to contain them. I think overall our team had more depth than they did."
The Skyview girls dropped to 3-4-1 and 2-1, but still have a spot in the conference tournament locked up. In the boys game, Kenai pulled out a 1-0 victory when Reed Ehrhardt scored in the 77th minute on a pass from Cory Toombs. The Kards improve to 3-0-1 and 4-2-2 while the Panthers fell to 0-3 and 1-6.
Perkins got the scoring started in the first 10 minutes when she came up the right wing and scored unassisted. In the 17th minute, a hand ball in the box gave Perkins a penalty kick, which she converted. In the 50th minute, Perkins boomed a corner kick to the far post, where Coupchiak slammed a header into the top of the net. Perkins finished off the scoring in the 73rd minute, when Sami Bidwell played the ball to Coupchiak, who quickly touched it to a wide-open Perkins.
"Every time you read about them in the paper, those two names pop up," said Skyview coach Ronnie Kier of Perkins and Coupchiak. "They're good athletes. They showed today why their names are always in the paper."
Perkins, who transferred to Kenai this year from Soldotna, and Coupchiak said they played together this summer in comp soccer, but they were not teamed together as forwards. Even so, they said it took them just one game together to get used to each other.
"She always just knows where I am," Coupchiak said of Perkins. "I don't know what it was. Right away, we clicked."
Verkuilen said that when Perkins and Coupchiak are on, like they were against Skyview, the duo is fun to watch. Just as importantly, the coach said when one or both is off, players like Shelby Daly, Sheena Anderson and Bidwell can pick up the slack.
"It's not like any one has to carry the team," Verkuilen said.
"It's not the goals that are important," she said. "The win is more important than the goals."
Goalies Lacie Wortham and Molly Copple kept the Panthers off the board. Wortham started the game, but quickly came out because she felt a little woozy. While Wortham recovered, Copple handled one of Skyview's best chances of the game. Wortham returned before half. Verkuilen said defenders Britt Kiser and Khelby Kennedy also did a good job of containing the Skyview attack. Anderson, playing stopper, was able to control many balls and carry the ball for a while before delivering to a forward. For Skyview, Hailey Driver continues to prove she belongs in goal. After Mallory Millay was injured, the Panthers had to reshuffle their lineup. When Driver proved she could play goalie, that meant Missy Massey could move out to the sweeper position and solidify the defense.
"She's shown she can do the job," Kier said of Driver. "She just needs the defense to help her. When they give her the chance, she'll make the save more often than not."
Kenai boys 1, Skyview 0
A defensive change almost resulted in a big upset for the Panthers, who were eliminated from the conference tournament by the first-place Kardinals.
"It was a better effort," Skyview coach Dave Carpenter said. "We changed defenses and went to four flat back there. We kind of hunkered in."
The Kardinals spent pretty much the entire game on Skyview's end, but the new defense made it hard for Kenai to get a clear shot on goal because there was so much traffic. In the first half, McKenan Steinbeck had a breakaway but Skyview goalie Trent Bunning made a scrambling save.
Toombs also had shots off the crossbar and side post.
In the second half, Kenai continued to dominate possession. The Panthers took 14 goal kicks, while the Kardinals did not take any.
"It was one of those games where Skyview had nothing to lose," Kenai coach David Landry said. "The more they hung around, the more they thought they could do it."
As missed chances piled up for Kenai, the Panthers became more and more inspired. In the 48th minute, Toombs got loose in the box, but Bunning made a diving save.
In the 61st minute, defender Aaron Glaves cleared a ball off of his squad's line with a leaping side volley.
In the 33rd minute, Toombs sent a direct free kick off the crossbar.
"We worked on shooting this week, although you wouldn't know it," Landry said. "To the boys' credit, they put shots on frame. There were just too many bodies in front of the goal."
Ehrhardt finally broke through with a laser to the upper corner.
The coach also gave credit to Devin Boyle, Barry Norwood and Codi Woodcock for creating numerous chances on the offensive end.
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