The host Kenai Central soccer teams swept Nikiski on Monday in Peninsula Conference action, with the girls winning 3-0 and the boys notching a 7-0 victory.
In the girls game, Kailey Hamilton made one save to record the shutout while Olivia Brewer, Julia Hanson and Liz Hanson notched goals — the first nonscrimmage goals for Kenai this season. The Kardinals moved to 1-2-1 overall and 1-1-0 in the conference, while the Bulldogs fell to 0-2-0 in the conference and overall.
With eight new starters this year and 26 freshmen and sophomores in the program compared to just four juniors and seniors, Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen was happy to come out with a crucial conference victory.
“They’re starting to get into it,” Verkuilen said of his young squad. “I told them it’s a journey, not an instant thing.
“Everybody will have to play their role for us to win, it can’t just be one or two players.”
In the 18th minute, Brewer got the Kardinals on the board when she chipped one over Nikiski keeper Abby Bystedt. In the 36th minute, the Kards went up 2-0 when Julia Hanson got to a goal kick at the top of the box and immediately fired it past Bystedt.
While Kenai had a ton of possession in Nikiski’s end — the Bulldogs were credited with two shots to Nikiski’s 12 — the Kardinals did not turn that into a ton of goals. Verkuilen said he was very happy to see Hanson’s goal because she didn’t waste any time in getting the shot off.
“A lot of these girls just have to get used to the pace of varsity play,” he said.
With just two minutes left in the game, Liz Hanson made it 3-0 when she got free up the left side and showed good patience in beating Bystedt.
Despite the three goals, Nikiski coach Linda Zimmerman said Bystedt did a great job holding up under pressure.
“She has some natural ability,” the coach said. “We joke she has catlike reflexes.”
Bystedt was the junior varsity goalie for Nikiski two years ago before moving to Anchorage last season and getting cut from soccer, so Zimmerman said the goalie is thrilled to be back on the field and getting great goalie coaching from JV coach Angie Smith.
Considering Monday was just the fourth time outside for her team, Zimmerman came away optimistic.
“I have high hopes for this team,” the coach said. “A lot of these girls have played together in other sports, and those that haven’t have played soccer together. Plus, I’ve had most of these girls in class so that helps to build a rapport with them.”
Zimmerman said Melanie Sexton and America Jeffreys did a great job in the midfield, while Zina Schwenke excelled at defense and Deidra Lamping did well at forward. Also at forward, the coach said Jordyn Stock put together some great combinations reflective of her background in hockey.
For the Kardinals, Verkuilen said Brenna Eubank and Annebelle Schneiders did a good job holding down the midfield, while Brewer was tenacious on the outside.
Kenai boys 7, Nikiski 0
The Kardinals grabbed a 6-0 lead in the first half en route to the Peninsula Conference victory. In the second half, the Kardinals left their starters out for 10 minutes in the second half. Kenai played possession for that time, then put the junior varsity in for the rest of the game.
Nikiski coach Harrison Deever was not happy with the way his team started the game, but was glad with how the Bulldogs rebounded. He said Nikiski has only been outside four times.
“I’m very excited for the season,” Deever said. “I was very upset with how we started, but in the second half Kenai had starters in and we matched up pretty well.”