Homer’s Minadora Reutov (6) celebrates her goal against Kenai Central on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Minadora Reutov (6) celebrates her goal against Kenai Central on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai, Homer girls tie; Mariners boys topple Kards

Soldotna sweeps Nikiski

The Homer and Kenai girls played to a 1-all tie, while the Mariners boys topped the Kardinals 1-0 on Tuesday night in Peninsula Conference soccer action at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School.

The Kenai girls are 1-0-1 in the league and 1-0-1 overall, while the Mariners are 0-0-1 and 0-0-1. The Homer boys move to 1-0 and 1-0, while the Kardinals are 1-1 and 1-1.

In girls play, Homer, Kenai and Soldotna have all been extremely close the past couple seasons in the Peninsula Conference.

The Kardinals did not lose a game all season last year until falling to Soldotna in the Division II state final.

“It was close last year, it was just one-goal games,” said Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen, who has coached the Kards since 1999. “The team had good perseverance and we stuck it out, but it wasn’t like we were wiping everybody off the map, you know?”

Verkuilen said the Kardinals are just as talented this season, but not as deep. He said senior captains Kylee Verkuilen and Grace Beiser and junior captain Kate Wisnewski will lead the team.

The coach said sophomore Brynnen Hanson and juniors Maddie Malone, Seanna Swanson and Sarah Baisden also add starting experience.

Homer girls coach Mike Tozzo, in his ninth season, said he lost six or seven starters and some significant pieces.

One of those pieces was in net, but Tozzo loved the way junior Christi Weisser played against the Kardinals.

The coach said leaders of this team are senior captains and defenders Goldie Hill and Addi Grimes. Tozzo said junior Channing Lowney is key in the midfield, while juniors Talia Weisser and Katelyn Marroquin and freshman Ruby Hill are key up front.

In Tuesday’s contest, Homer came out as the more aggressive team.

“In the first half, we came out very flat,” Verkuilen said. “Homer beat us to every ball. They were the aggressive team.”

It paid off 16 minutes into the game when Minadora Reutov scored on a ball that was bouncing around the box after a corner kick.

Verkuilen said his team was complaining about Homer’s physical play in the first half.

“I was like, ‘Are you going to do battle, or are you going to sit there and complain about it?’” Verkuilen said. “The second half was a different thing, obviously.”

Tozzo said spring snowstorms in Homer meant this was only the seventh time outside for the Mariners. He didn’t know what to expect against the Kardinals.

“Our big goal for the day was to outwork them, make them tired and make them uncomfortable,” Tozzo said. “And I think we met all of those goals.”

In the 59th minute, Homer committed a hand ball in the box but Weisser was able to save Kylee Verkuilen’s penalty kick.

Verkuilen got her revenge in the 74th minute when she bombed in a shot from 30 yards out to secure the tie.

“That’s Kylee,” Tozzo said. “I can’t be mad about that. We defended really well. We gave Kylee a little bit of space for two seconds, and she did what Kylee does.”

Coach Verkuilen said his whole team was more aggressive to the ball in the second half, but gave specific credit to Kylee Verkuilen and junior Tait Cooper for leading the charge in the midfield.

“We definitely had a talk about commitment and getting there, so hopefully there’ll be a change in that,” coach Verkuilen said.

Homer boys 1, Kenai 0

Michael Reutov scored in the 78th minute to give the Mariners the Peninsula Conference victory in head coach Kenneth Schneider’s debut.

The goal came off a corner kick. Kenai cleared the initial kick back to the corner, but Reutov was able to score when the ball bounced around the box after being crossed again.

“It was a little messy,” Schneider said. “They got it into the box eventually. And Michael was in the right spot at the right time.”

Schneider has helped with the girls and boys programs since graduating from Homer in 2015.

After losing three starters from last season, he said the team has a fair amount of experience, but also a lot of young talent. Three freshmen started against the Kards, while four saw the field.

After just five or six practices on the turf, Schneider said he’s still figuring out how to mix the youth and experience.

The Mariners are captained by Lucas Story and Rocco Flora. Both were key defenders in getting the shutout, as was goalie Walden Kraszeski.

“They’re pretty vocal leaders out there,” Schneider said of Flora and Story. “They’re doing a great job.”

In the center of the midfield, the coach said freshman Kai Waltenbaugh and junior Spencer Dye did a good job holding things down.

Kenai head coach Shane Lopez, who took over the top job in 2019, said his team had more possession and shots on goal.

“The guys played solid, but the ball didn’t go in the net for us,” Lopez said. “The keeper made a couple of good stops.”

Lopez said Kenai lost four from the starting lineup last season. This season, the lone two seniors are William Wilson and co-captain Aloshia Cross. Junior Enrique Mercado also serves as a captain.

The Kenai coach said Cross and Mercado were solid in the midfield, while Bradley Morrison had a good game in goal.

Also, Lopez said Carson Grimm was solid on defense and Trae Pitsch created multiple chances on goal.

“It’s certainly disappointing, but it’s early in the season and we’ll continue growing and learn from it,” Lopez said.

Soldotna girls 12, Nikiski 0

The host Stars, the defending Division II champions, opened with a Peninsula Conference victory over the Bulldogs.

The Stars are 1-0 and 1-0, while the Bulldogs are 0-2 and 0-2.

Ryan Queen had the shutout in net for SoHi.

The Stars took a 5-0 lead after the first half. Jillian Duncan scored on assists from Sadie Lane and Morgan Lemm, Lane scored unassisted, Lemm scored off a corner kick, Kendra Rose scored unassisted and Kaytlin McAnelly scored off an assist from Lemm on a corner kick.

In the second half, Teagan Kobylarz scored on assists from Emily O’Reagan and Lane, Lemm scored on an assist from O’Reagan, Lemm scored off a corner kick, Kobylarz scored on a Lane assist, O’Reagan scored on Duncan and Piper Bloom assists, Rowan Peck scored unassisted and Duncan scored on an Alex Lee assist.

Nikiski coach Angie Coelho said in a text message that Soldotna is traditionally a tough matchup for her squad, but that the Bulldogs were looking forward to whittling down the score over the course of the season.

Coelho said goalie Emma Weeks was the player of the game for Nikiski.

“She kept fighting and had about 25 saves,” Coelho wrote. “It’s hard to stay in the game when the score runs up, but she does, and she always has a good attitude.”

Soldotna boys 13, Nikiski 0

The host Stars notched a Peninsula Conference victory on Tuesday.

Soldotna is 1-0 in the conference and 1-0 overall, while Nikiski is 0-2 and 0-2.

Luke Hillyer had the shutout for the Stars.

Nikiski coach Horst Hannold said his squad played with 10 players.

The Stars grabbed an 8-0 lead after the first half. Owen Buckbee scored on a Simon Willets assist, Andrew Arthur scored on a Johnny Wardas assist, Lane Hillyer scored on a Nuno Venturi assist, Arthur scored on a Willets assist, Willets scored on a Venturi assist and Arthur scored on a Jace O’Reagan assist.

In the second half, Owen Buckbee scored unassisted, Venturi scored unassisted, Venturi scored on a Theiler assist, Brody Linton scored on a Venturi assist and Theiler scored unassisted.

Homer’s Ruby Hill and Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen battle for the ball Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Ruby Hill and Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen battle for the ball Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Zane James and Homer’s Reid Rauch battle for the ball Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Zane James and Homer’s Reid Rauch battle for the ball Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Berend Pearson dribbles against Kenai Central’s Miles Metteer on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer’s Berend Pearson dribbles against Kenai Central’s Miles Metteer on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Sawyer Vann and Homer’s Lucas Story battle for the ball Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central’s Sawyer Vann and Homer’s Lucas Story battle for the ball Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer goalie Christi Weisser keeps the ball from Kenai Central’s Katie Johnson on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

Homer goalie Christi Weisser keeps the ball from Kenai Central’s Katie Johnson on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Ed Hollier Field at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)

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