Sam Draves was making the saves Wednesday evening at Kenai Central High School.
Unfortunately, Draves — the Homer girls soccer goalkeeper — could only keep up the display for so long against a powerful Kenai attack.
Draves stood tall in the goal with a scoreless first half of play, but the Kardinals opened the regular season with a 3-0 win over the Homer Mariners at Ed Hollier Field.
In Northern Lights Conference play, the second of the two meetings between teams counts as the Southern Division matchup that goes down in the record books.
Hannah Drury, Lara Creighton and Cori Holmes provided the scoring for Kenai, all in the second half, while senior Alli Steinbeck provided the defense, stopping the few shots sent her way to record the shutout in goal.
“This was a game of halves,” said Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen. “We had our opportunities in the first half and shots were going awry.
“In the second half, we started moving in on the ball and taking a second to make the shots count.”
Drury opened the scoring seven minutes into the second half with a 30-yard blast down the middle that was set up by Holmes, a fellow senior midfielder.
Creighton built on the lead in the 72nd minute by breaking past a Homer defender and dribbling the ball right until Draves was in front of her before tapping it in to give Kenai a 2-0 lead.
In between, Draves put on the moves to maintain the one-goal deficit, an act that included a pair of blocks off her mitts. On a third occasion, a long shot by Creighton crossed over the box and glanced off the left post.
First-year Homer head coach Mike Tozzo praised Draves’ performance in goal, in particular the first-half shutout the four-year starter posted.
“Sam is about as solid a goalkeeper there is in the state,” Tozzo said. “She’s got a high soccer IQ.”
However, just three minutes after Creighton’s score, the Kards were awarded a penalty kick for a Homer defender’s aggressive move on Creighton in the goalie box.
The kick glanced off Draves’ hands but still hit the netting to seal the victory.
“I was pleased with the opportunities we had, but you could tell our girls were a bit tired,” Verkuilen said. “They were off a step with their shots.”
Kenai will face nonconference opponent Eagle River on Friday at home.
Kenai boys 4, Homer 0
Youth ruled the day for the Kenai boys soccer team, which notched a shutout victory over the Mariners at Ed Hollier Field in Kenai.
Freshman Damien Redder, sophomores Zack Tuttle and Luke Beiser and junior Max Dye each scored to lift the Kardinals to victory in their season-opening match, and junior Tristan Landry posted the shutout in goal.
“I thought we moved the ball well and did a good job adjusting to our new roles,” said Kenai head coach Joel Reemtsma. “We got a lot of good play from our bench guys and we didn’t see that dropoff.”
Tuttle started the scoring early with a shot on a well-timed cross from Beiser just three minutes into the game. Tuttle took his shot from the right corner of the goalie box, which was just enough for the ball to slip in on the right side of the goal post.
Later, Beiser lent a foot in creating commotion in front of Homer goalie Kenzington Cortez that gave Redder his opportunity to score late in the first half. Beiser pressured Cortez to make a move toward the ball, which put Redder in perfect position for a right-footed tap that pushed the ball beyond the reach of Cortez and into a 2-0 Kenai lead.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Tuttle repaid the favor to Beiser. The 6-foot-4 Beiser headed the ball into the goal on a cross from Tuttle.
“I saw (Tuttle) looking across and saw I had a lot of time to get there,” Beiser said. “I try to use my height to my advantage.”
Beiser finished Wednesday with two assists to go with his goal.
Cortez was making just his second career varsity start in goal for Homer, and head coach Warren Waldorf said that and the inexperience of the Mariners cost them.
“Our only prior varsity experience on our defensive line is (senior) Daniel Wiest,” Waldorf said. “We made some mistakes but I think we can fix those things.”
Reemstma said Landry’s new role as goalkeeper after Wren Norwood graduated last spring is coming along well.
“His communication with our back line has been great,” Reemstma said. “I think Wren’s mentorship for him was huge.”
Dye finished off the scoring for Kenai in the 59th minute, using a slick left-footed strike to send the ball high and out of range of the attempted block of Cortez.