Kenai Central’s Emily Halstead and Homer’s Mychaela Pitta battle for the ball Monday, April 17, 2017, at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Emily Halstead and Homer’s Mychaela Pitta battle for the ball Monday, April 17, 2017, at Kenai Central High School. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai girls topple Homer in soccer

The host Kenai Central girls soccer team received second-half goals from Samantha Morse and Lara Creighton in defeating Homer 2-0 on Monday.

The Kardinals improved to 3-2 overall while the Mariners dropped to 0-3. The game did not count for Northern Lights Conference Southern Division play because the same two teams will meet Saturday in Homer at 2 p.m.

Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen saw the game as another step in the progression of his team. He was very pleased with how his team competed for 50-50 balls, passed and worked off of each other, and defended by not allowing penetration and balls to leak through in the air.

The coach now sees one thing on which the team must improve.

“Today, we were in a better position to finish,” Verkuilen said. “We just didn’t make good contact.”

Homer dropped down to just 11 players just 13 minutes into the game when Rylynn Todd was struck in the head by the ball. Todd was removed from the game and Homer coach Mike Tozzo said she will enter the concussion protocol.

Tozzo said the plan was to keep Kenai striker Lara Creighton from shooting from inside the 18-yard box and to keep Creighton from playing crosses. When she did play crosses, the Mariners had to make sure they were marked up.

“I have no complaints,” Tozzo said of his team’s play. “It was a couple of mistakes and that was it.”

The first came 26 minutes into the second half, when Creighton crossed the ball to Annebelle Schneiders, who was open in the box. Schneiders played the ball forward to Samantha Morse, who turned around and defeated keeper Ali McCarron.

The second mistake came in the final minute, when Rebecca Miller found Creighton inside the 18-yard box and she was able to connect on the goal.

But other than that, Homer was able to keep most of the shots to the outside. The Kards took 32 shots, putting 15 on net.

“We just didn’t hit the frame — shot after shot after shot,” Kenai midfielder Cassi Holmes said.

Like her coach, though, Holmes said everything else went well. She said the defense was quick to play the ball up the field, leading to a shutout for keeper Kailey Hamilton.

“I feel like this game was a breakthrough in terms of our passing,” Holmes said. “We’d been playing a lot of boot ball.”

Tozzo gave credit to his side for accepting being low on numbers. The Mariners have two games that count for division play at home this week. Wednesday, Soldotna comes for a 4 p.m. girls game and 6 p.m. boys game. Saturday, the Mariners host Kenai with the girls at 2 p.m. and boys at 4 p.m.

The coach gave credit to senior midfielders Sam Jacobsen and Megan Pitzman and senior striker Uliana Reutov for their leadership Monday.

“I still think we are in a good position,” Tozzo said. “The next two are even more important and they are at home, so we’ll pick up a little excitement playing in front of the home crowd.”

Kenai hosts Soldotna for a 4 p.m. girls game and 6 p.m. boys game today. The games will not count for the division standings.

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