Kenai's Devon Copple controls the ball in the second half Friday against Nikiski.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
When informed his team’s 1-0 victory over visiting Nikiski on Friday eliminated the Bulldogs from Northern Lights Conference tournament contention, Kenai coach David Landry’s mood turned bittersweet.
On the one hand, he was pleased with the win. On the other, though, he was hoping the young Nikiski squad would still be able to qualify for the postseason.
“They played one whale of a game. That’s one thing about Jim’s boys, I have always said this, he always brings his boys ready to play. And they play hard,” he said. “They’re a good bunch of kids and we have nothing but the greatest of respect for Nikiski’s program and I’m a big fan of theirs.”
But the Kardinals (7-1-3) needed a win to maintain their momentum heading into the regular season finale, an eventual 2-0 win over Homer on Saturday.
Senior Dusty Ward ensured that was the case when he headed the ball into the back of the net off a Barry Norwood corner kick in the 17th minute.
Kenai goalie Justin Wisniewski makes a stop against a shot by Nikiski's Kenny Fagan in the second half Friday at Kenai.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
“They caught us. Dusty Ward was able to convert on a corner kick and ... we weren’t quite ready for it,” said Bulldogs’ coach Jim Coburn. “He did an awesome job on his header and he was able to score.”
But freshman keeper Jordan Harrison kept Nikiski in the game, making multiple sliding saves, including a key stop on Justin Calhoun in the 48th minute.
“Jordan had his best game (Friday),” Coburn said.
Kenai goalie Justin Wisniewski wasn’t bad, either, stopping the few shots the Bulldogs (2-9) managed.
“We did (have opportunities), but that’s the hardest part of soccer is finishing up front and we weren’t able to do that,” Coburn said. “Justin is a good goalie for Kenai and you’ve got to make a good shot to beat him.”
Despite connecting for only one goal, Landry was impressed with the performance.
“We had so many glorious opportunities (Friday). It’s just one of those days some days you get rewarded and some days you don’t,” he said. “You can’t fault the effort. We had some terrific balls and some nice one-and-two touch plays.”
Coburn is looking toward a strong showing next season.
“I’m proud of them. They played hard (Friday),” he said. “This is a young team. They’re going to be better next year.”
Kenai girls 6, Nikiski 0
Freshman Casey Coupchiak recorded a hat trick, Taylor Brewer added a pair goals and Becca Ford scored once as the Kardinals beat the Bulldogs (1-11).
It took 11 shots in the first 15 minutes before Coupchiak broke in from the right and slid the ball past a sliding Hailey Driver for a 1-0 lead.
“It’s a matter of numbers,” Nikiski coach Tom Bennett said of the barrage of early shots.
Kenai (8-0-2) struck again 12 minutes later when Coupchiak ran through a bouncing ball in the box and again put it by Driver and Ford and made it 3-0 in the 33rd minute when the wind carried her long shot over a leaping Driver.
Brewer then bookended Coupchiak’s third goal in the 52nd minute with tallies in the 46th and 68th minutes, respectively.
“We did pretty good. I thought we played pretty good (Friday),” Bennett said. “Obviously, we were outgunned, but we made some good things happen had a couple shots on goal, we just didn’t get it in.”
Kardinals’ coach Dan Verkuilen is pleased with the season that ended with a solid 3-0 victory over Homer on Saturday.
“Fun and I really enjoyed the kids. Excellent attitudes, never had a discipline problem. It’s just a blast to be around them,” he explained. “They want to do well and they’ll give me everything they’ve got. That’s the one thing I always know.”
Bennett is also expecting better results from his young team next season.
“I think we’ll come out a little bit better next year and we’ll just keep working towards our collective goal of playing as a team.”
Kenai girls 3, Homer 0
Lacie Wortham posted a shutout and Casey Coupchiak tormented Homer’s defense as the Kardinals wrapped up the regular season with an 8-0-1 overall record and a 4-0-1 record in the Southern Division.
“Lacie Wortham had a brilliant game,” Kenai girls coach Dan Verkuilen said. “They actually had a couple of really good attacks, and she did a good job. Our defense was solid, too.”
The Kardinals were missing two starting defenders due to injury, but Verkuilen said Ronnie Sounart and Khelby Kennedy did a solid job of filling in. The coach also said Taylor Brewer did a good job of shadowing Homer star Claire Siekaniec in the midfield.
Kenai got its first goal 20 minutes into the game when Coupchiak was pulled down in the box after a pass from Brewer and Brewer made the penalty kick. Before the half, Coupchiak got the ball, made a couple of nice moves and made it 2-0. Homer pushed hard for goals in the second half, but the only goal came from Coupchiak, who collected another ball in the midfield and dribbled in for a score.
Kenai boys 2, Homer 0
The Kardinals scored twice in the second half to complete their regular season at 7-1-3 overall and 4-1 in the division.
Corey Toombs broke a 0-0 tie in the 50th minute when he scored off a corner kick from Dusty Ward. With five minutes to play, Chad Moore assisted on a goal by Jeff Narlock.
Justin Wisniewski had another shutout in goal, while Kenai coach David Landry said the defense welcomed the return of Josh Werba from injury. Landry said Dusty Ward and Josh Lazaro did a solid job in the midfield, while McKenan Steinbeck, Barry Norwood and Toombs did a good job setting up scoring opportunities.
Matthew Carroll can be reached at email@example.com.
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