The Nikiski girls soccer squad proved a valuable point to Northern Lights Conference opponents Friday afternoon on the natural grass field at Nikiski, notching a 1-0 victory over Palmer.
Nikiski midfielder Deidra Lamping scored the goal that made the difference six minutes into the second half, getting an assist from Molly Cason and delivering a shot from the left corner of the goal box to put Nikiski into the lead for good.
“This is the one we wanted more than anything,” said Nikiski coach Troy Zimmerman. “It’s been a while since we beat a Valley team.”
After Lamping’s goal, it was up to the Bulldogs defense to hold on, and hold on they did. Brianna Vollertsen anchored the defensive line in goal, stopping seven shots in the second half to record the shutout. In front of Vollertsen were sweepers Melanie Sexton, Emma Wik, Avery Kornstad and Daisy Schwenke.
Nikiski had lost a 4-0 home contest to Wasilla in cold, windy conditions Thursday, and Zimmerman pointed to that match as the catalyst for Friday’s triumph.
“I think we came out more intense today, the difference was in the level of intensity,” Zimmerman said. “They agreed they didn’t want another match like that one.”
The win bumped Nikiski’s season record to 4-5 overall.
Palmer dropped to 4-11 overall, and Moose coach Harmony Chadwick attributed the loss to a flu bug that has made the rounds on her team.
“We played with a lack of urgency, and that may have been for sickness,” Chadwick said. “They weren’t winning 50-50 balls, and that was the difference.”
A stingy first half resulted in a scoreless halftime, and only three shots on goal between the two sides led to the start of desperate play. It took less than six minutes before Nikiski broke through in the second half. A small lapse in concentration by Palmer goalie Victoria Banks left Lamping with a workable shot on goal and Lamping took it to give Nikiski a lead.
In the final half hour of play, Palmer managed to put several shots on Vollertsen, but the Nikiski goalkeeper stood tall until the end.
Palmer boys 2, Nikiski 1
The Moose scored late after Nikiski netted a second half equalizer and held on for the NLC win.
Palmer jumped to 3-8-1 overall, while the Bulldogs dropped to 1-6-1, but with a chunk of his team not playing due to injury and several others swinging up from the JV squad, Nikiski coach Jim Coburn was pleased with the effort.
“We have five guys that are hurt, so we knew it would be tough,” Coburn said.
Palmer outshot Nikiski 10-5, and opened the scoring four minutes in with a shot from Ben Swalling from the right edge of the goalie box.
However, for the remainder of the first half, Palmer couldn’t break through, even while outshooting the Bulldogs 6-2. In the first 16 minutes of the second half, the Moose were issued two yellow cards for aggressive plays, and on the second card, which took place in the Nikiski goal box, a Bulldogs player was also carded. The result was a Palmer penalty kick, but the opportunity went wasted when Swalling’s shot soared above the crossbar.
In the 69th minute, it was Sam Tauriainen scoring the tying goal for Nikiski with a free kick from just outside the left edge of the Palmer goalie box. The shot sailed into the netting with no real opportunity for a save.
“A free kick like that was pretty hard, tough to block,” Coburn said. “We thought we could win the match from that.”
However, the Moose refocused and nine minutes later scored the game winner. Isaiah Montoya was positioned in the goal box to slot in a rebound off Nikiski goalie Warren Gage with just two minutes left in regulation for a 2-1 lead.
“To be honest, (Montoya’s) role is to clean up the balls that don’t get through the first time,” said Palmer coach Jason Rice. “We’re good as a team capitalizing on mistakes.”
Palmer sweeper John Burton, who sustained a leg injury late in the game, left Palmer in a vulnerable position in the last few minutes of regulation and stoppage time, but the Moose sealed the win.
“He’s a lifeline to our team, so anytime he goes off, it’s not what we want,” Rice said about Burton.