The Homer soccer teams notched a pair of crucial road victories Saturday at Nikiski High School. The Homer girls shut out the Bulldogs on Saturday morning with a 5-0 rout and the Mariners boys beat Nikiski 2-0 in the afternoon.
In the girls contest, Uliana Reutov and Megan Pitzman each had a pair of goals to lead the charge, while teammate Aspen Daigle scored one as well. Homer improved to 3-8-2 with the win, while Nikiski dropped to 3-7 overall.
Homer coach Mickey Todd praised the efforts of seniors Tisha Lovett and Daigle, who were playing at times out of their normal spots on the field due to a shuffling of spots from injuries and sickness.
“We’ve played (13) games so far, so it’s starting to wear on their legs over the course of three or four weeks,” Todd said. “But it was a great team effort.”
The win was especially important as the season nears its stretch run toward the Northern Lights Conference tournament. The Mariners are jockeying with other teams to get into the region tournament, which begins in less than two weeks in Palmer.
“We have to beat Nikiski, Seward and Kodiak to make it in,” Todd said. “That’s why this was big.”
Homer started quick with a goal about 15 minutes in from Reutov, with an assist from Pitzman. Reutov’s shot from 20 yards out slipped by Nikiski goalie Brianna Vollertson, who missed the ball on a diving attempt.
Five minutes later, a Nikiski defender was charged with a handball in the box, which drew a penalty from the referee and a penalty kick opportunity for Homer. Daigle’s shot hit Vollertson, but the ball just slipped by for a 2-0 Mariners lead.
With less than a minute to spare in the first half, Homer caught a big break when Pitzman took a direct kick from near the right corner of the box. Pitzman’s shot found its way into the net for a 3-0 lead at halftime.
Nikiski coach Troy Zimmerman said his message at halftime was about keeping mistakes to a minimum.
“We were beating ourselves,” Zimmerman said. “Homer’s a solid team, and a solid team will capitalize on mistakes that their opponents make, and that’s just what happened.”
Less than three minutes into the second half, Reutov scored again with an assist from Andy Sonnen to quickly put Homer up by four goals, and Pitzman tallied her second of the day with a nifty through ball opportunity in the 59th minute.
In the boys game, a back-and-forth first half of midfield possession quickly turned in the early moments of the second half.
Less than 45 seconds after the second-half whistle sounded, Kenneth Schneider broke a scoreless game with a well-placed strike from the right corner of the box into the left corner of the net, giving Homer the lead.
In the 50th minute, Dawson Roberts put the moves on Nikiski’s defense, receiving an assist from Filip Reutov and carrying the ball up the left side, then quickly darting right to catch the Nikiski defender off his feet to send home the scoring strike, putting Homer up two goals.
After losing a conference game 2-1 to Kenai on Tuesday, Homer coach Warren Waldorf said Saturday’s conference matchup with Nikiski had greater value.
“It’s better than losing,” Waldorf said when asked if Saturday’s win made up for the Kenai loss.
Waldorf pointed out that a schedule change with Kodiak left Homer with two consecutive days of games next week, which he believes adds more significance to the pair of matchups. The Mariners host Kodiak on Tuesday and travel to Soldotna on Wednesday.
With the high stakes involved with winning the conference matchup, both sides worked hard for possession, and at times, it turned physical. Nikiski midfielder Nico Castro was given a yellow card five minutes into the second half after tackling Homer’s Drew Brown to the ground.
In the final 20 minutes, Nikiski ramped up the intensity in hopes of closing the gap to Homer.
“I think they’re trained to be first to the ball,” Waldorf said. “They use their body, they hit pretty hard.”
Homer boosted its season mark to 3-4-3 overall this year with the win, while Nikiski dropped to 4-6 overall.
Nikiski girls 4, Seward 1
A pair of goals from senior Rachel Thompson helped the Bulldogs to a conference win Friday night in Nikiski.
Thompson, the lone senior on the team, was celebrated on Nikiski’s senior night, held during its opening home game.
Nikiski coach Troy Zimmerman said he was happy to see the team win its first home game of the year.
“I think the girls are starting to jell a little bit,” Zimmerman said. “We’re still having the occasional breakdown on defense, but they’re making leaps and bounds working as a team.”
Zykiah Cooney and freshman Verity Feltman each scored a goal as well.
Seward struck first around the 15th minute to open the scoring, but Nikiski battle back to take a 2-1 lead at halftime, a lead they never relinquished.
With the win, the Bulldogs boosted their record to 3-6 this year.
Nikiski boys 3, Seward 0
Nikiski beat NLC opponent Seward at home Friday evening.
The Bulldogs struck first in the first half with a corner kick by Christian Riddall that saw Javon Pamplin and Hunter Holloway reach the ball at the same time to knock in the goal. Later, Riddall helped his freshman brother Rykker score with another corner kick opportunity, putting Nikiski up 2-0 at halftime.
In the second half, Holloway ran out on a breakaway to score again and put the Bulldogs up 3-0.
Grace boys 1, Homer 0
Grace Christian shut out the Mariners Friday evening in Homer to grab an NLC win over its southern opponents.
Homer slid to 2-4-3 on the year.
Grace girls 2, Homer 0
The Grizzlies boys squad mirrored the girls side with a shutout of the Homer boys Friday night.