Just when they needed a quick boost, junior Olivia Brewer was there to give the Kenai Central girls a surge.
Brewer scored the go-ahead goal for the Kardinals on Saturday morning in a 2-1 nonconference victory over North Pole, only one minute after the Patriots had equalized in the second half.
“She was determined to make something happen,” said Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen. “It was a wonderful play, but I always ask the players why it takes someone (else) scoring to make something happen.”
The win helped the Kardinals to a 2-1 overall mark in 2019. North Pole competes in the Mid-Alaska Conference in interior Alaska and is a team seldom seen by Kenai Central, which made for an unpredictable clash Saturday between the two Division II programs.
North Pole had lost 6-1 Friday to Soldotna, but by halftime Saturday, the Kards held a precarious 1-0 advantage on a goal by junior Alyssa Bucho in the 22nd minute in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
“You kind of wish it was a 6-1 game, but that’s easier said than done,” Verkuilen said. “The girls created opportunities but there’s that finishing part. We worked on that all week, but I liked that they were taking the shots today, they weren’t passing up shots.”
Bucho grabbed a rebound off a shot by Brewer that pinged off North Pole goalie Makali Kazense and pocketed it up into the netting.
The Patriots tied it up 16 minutes into the second half on a goal by Katy Vinton, but Brewer’s goal on what was essentially the very first possession after the ensuing kickoff immediately erased any momentum the Patriots had hoped to snag.
Brewer brought the ball down field into space and lofted it up over the oncoming goalkeeper to score.
From there, Kenai’s defense clamped down for over 20 minutes to secure the victory.
“The defense played great today,” Verkuilen said. “They didn’t allow much. Just thought the team is getting better.”
Kenai boys 4, North Pole 1
In the boys game later on Saturday, Leif Lofquist scored twice for Kenai in a convincing victory.
The Kardinals (2-2 overall) outshot the Patriots 15-6 over the course of the game, which was broken open by a two-goal burst late in the first half.
“The guys regrouped on the field a bit and put the ball wide,” explained Kenai head coach Shane Lopez. “They made some good passes on the ground.”
Tied at one apiece, the big moment came in the 31st minute when Tomas Levy-Canedo received a well-timed through ball up the middle from Damien Redder and raced down the field on a one-on-one rush with Patriots goaltender Dillon Talburt. When the two met just outside the goal box, Levy-Canedo juked left and got around Talburt to net the go-ahead score.
“Damien looked up, saw him and served it to him on a platter,” Lopez said. “Tomas had the presence of mind to be able to make that tap around to finish that. A lot of times guys can get in their heads with those breakaway shots.”
Just two minutes later, it was Leif Lofquist’s turn to dazzle. Levy-Canedo crossed a deep ball from the goal line across the box and found Travis Verkuilen on the far end, whose one-timer sent the ball into the box where Lofquist was there to kick in the rebound for a 3-1 lead.
Francisco Garmen Munarriz notched a late goal for Kenai in the 48th minute.
Early in the game, Kenai caught a break when Lofquist was tackled in the goal box for a penalty kick in the 15th minute. Lofquist deftly deposted the PK to the lower right corner to give Kenai the early lead.
North Pole made its tying shot in the 25th minute on a long range strike from junior captain Skyler Denny, whose blast made it over the fingers of Kenai goalie Braedon Pitsch.
Lopez said the ability of the team in rallying from that letdown spoke volumes. Lopez praised the work of outside backs Joe Hamilton, Johann Caranzza and Travis McKinley in helping keep the midfield humming.
Kenai will face one of its biggest tests this season Tuesday when the Kards travel down to Homer for a conference clash with the Mariners. The Kenai and Homer girls will also play Tuesday at KCHS.