The Kenai Central High School boys soccer team, perhaps feeling a bit nostalgic as the school year comes to a close, certainly got the most they could out the the Region III Soccer Championships.
The Kardinals also prolonged their season, recovering from Friday's shootout loss to Soldotna to beat Skyview 2-0 in overtime to clinch third place and the region's third seed in next week's state tournament in Anchorage.
"I'm kinda sore, but we won -- that's all that matters," said Kenai's Carlos Carreon. "Everybody was tired, but we picked it up in the second half. We didn't score, but we finished it off in overtime."
In fact, the Kardinals waited until the second 10-minute overtime period before putting the ball in the net. The Kardinals scored two minutes into the period when Owen Brewer found an opening in Skyview's otherwise tight defense and placed his shot past Skyview goalkeeper Mike Bell off a throw-in from Cory Janson.
Four minutes later, Kenai keeper Eric Nyce foiled what might have been Skyview's best attack of the match, coming off his line to parry away a hard cross that was headed for an unmarked Panther waiting at the far post.
"I wanted to catch it, but I just got my palm underneath it," Nyce said, adding that he was fortunate to have knocked it to a teammate's feet. "That's what's tough about goal. You have to stay focused for the entire game and be ready to make the big play."
Two minutes after Nyce quashed Skyview's momentum, Jose Araya gave the Kardinals a little bit of breathing room, beating Bell with a low, hard shot from the top right corner of the penalty area, set up by the play of Brewer and Richard Alexander.
"Skyview played a terrific game," said Kenai coach David Landry. "Their goal was to make us beat them, and they packed it in (defensively), but they were steady with their defense, and they had some good one-touch passing. They played a heck of a game."
Skyview was able to create some good scoring opportunities throughout the match, including several excellent crosses played in front of the Kenai goal.
While the Panthers were unable to finish in the attacking end of the field, Skyview's defense, with Josh Miller, Mike Sturm and Ely Evanson across the back and yeoman's work from David Quelland and Matt Matarrese in the midfield, kept the Kardinals at bay, denying them any easy opportunities.
"We knew with Skyview, they just hustle," said Kenai's Wally Ward. "Playing those guys, nothing comes easy."
For their part, Ward and his partners in the backfield, Janson and Marcus Webster, also were solid, and while Skyview was creating some promising attacks, the crosses were usually cleared out of danger before a shot on goal could be generated.
The victory sends the Kardinals to the state tournament for the third time in as many years.
"You couldn't ask for anything more," Landry said.
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