The Kenai Central boys soccer team has received its fair share of challenges this spring. The Kardinals opened their season with a 3-0 loss to South Anchorage in a state championship rematch, then opened this weekend with a Northern Lights Conference title rematch against the Colony Knights.
The Kardinals prevailed with a 2-1 victory on Friday over Colony, before handing Palmer, another NLC foe, a 7-0 loss on Saturday at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai. Head coach Joel Reemtsma credited his team for raising the bar in both games.
“I felt we controlled (Friday’s) game and caught them a little flat-footed,” Reemtsma said. “(Saturday) we started off on the front foot again, and had good chances a minute into the game.
“Things are just on a trajectory for us right now.”
Junior captain Zack Tuttle and sophomore Damien Redder scored in Friday’s clash with Colony to send Kenai to the victory. Colony scored late on a throw-in attempt, but could not come up with the equalizer in the dying minutes.
Saturday against Palmer, the star power showed up again as Tuttle scored four goals to propel the Kards to a blowout win on a blustery day. Tuttle opened the scoring 18 minutes in on a misplayed kick by Moose goalkeeper Caden Brown, then added another goal five minutes later on a similar play, before completing his hat trick two minutes into the second half.
“It’s been pretty good,” Tuttle said when asked about Kenai’s start to the 2017 season. “We’re looking better right now than this point last year.”
Overall, Kenai recorded 22 shots on goal against Palmer, which in turn only managed one shot on goal.
Reemtsma said he thought a 2-0 lead at halftime was a result of his team’s intensity falling off near the end of the half.
“We got a little sloppy late in the first half, and I told the guys at halftime, a two-goal lead is not comfortable,” he said.
Shortly after the second half began, Kenai opened up a barrage of shots on the Moose. Eventually, a shot by Luke Beiser rebounded off Brown and into the clutches of Tuttle, who finished it with a flourish.
“There’s no one better at finishing than him,” Reemtsma said.
Tuttle tallied his fourth goal of the game in the 58th minute with a strike from close range. Prior to that, sophomore Damien Redder got off a shot from 20 yards out that scored, pushing the lead to 4-0. Junior Rykker Riddall scored in the 62nd minute and freshman Nate Beiser capped the day with a goal in the 76th minute.
Tuttle said his success is driven by his teammates, who provide him with scoring opportunities by pressuring the other team’s back line. It allowed him to get two early scoring chances on Palmer’s goalie.
“My freshman year, my coach told me to always stay up close because not everybody has good reflexes on the goalie kick,” Tuttle said.
Kenai will host Soldotna at Ed Hollier Field Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Colony girls 3, Kenai 0
The Knights flipped the script against the Kardinals in a Friday afternoon conference contest at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.
On the same field in last spring’s NLC tournament, Kenai made off with a 3-0 semifinal victory over Colony, but the Knights returned for their first regular-season meeting of 2017 with Kenai and shut out the Kards. Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen stressed the Colony was playing in its 11th game of the year, while Kenai was in its third match.
“We fatigued faster, and it showed,” Verkuilen said. “Colony was going to the ball faster, and they won those 50-50 balls.”
After a win over Palmer on Saturday, Kenai stands at 2-2 overall. Verkuilen said that junior Brenna Eubank and senior captain Rebecca Miller played well on defense.
Kenai girls 3, Palmer 0
Saturday’s game proved to be a better day for the Kenai girls, who came out with an improved team effort, Verkuilen said. Overall, Kenai put 21 shots up, 13 of them on goal.
“We got rid of the jogging and got to sprinting,” he said.
Samantha Morse notched two goals to lead the Kardinals, scoring in the 70th and 80th minutes, getting assists from Liz Hanson and Cassi Holmes, respectively. Annabelle Schneiders opened the day with a late goal in the final minute of the first half with help from Miller.
Verkuilen said Schneiders and Holmes have adjusted nicely to their new roles as center midfielders, which helped Morse deliver the scoring tallies.
Freshman keeper Kailey Hamilton had an easy day in goal with just one save.