The Seward boys got the first goal but Kenai Central got the last laugh Tuesday on a biting cold Senior Night at Kenai Central High School.
The Kenai boys put a bow on the evening with a 7-1 win over Seward in Peninsula Conference play. Kenai jumped to 3-0-1 in conference and 4-2-1 overall, while the Seahawks dropped to 0-2 in conference and 0-2 overall.
Earlier in the day, the Kenai girls dominated an 11-0 rout over the Seward girls, pushing Kenai’s season to 2-0-2 in conference, 3-1-2 overall. Seward dropped to 0-2 in both.
Seward sophomore Collin Mullaly turned heads early in the boys game with a free kick goal that arced its way around a set Kenai defense for a 1-0 Seahawks lead just seven minutes into the game.
It would be the only scoring for Seward as Kenai roared back with three unanswered goals in the first half.
“We just got our heads in the game,” said senior striker Tomas Levy-Canedo. “We started to pressure a little more, got some goals in and started to pass a little more.”
Levy-Canedo got the comeback started just three minutes after Mullaly’s goal with a header on a corner kick from fellow senior Damien Redder, tying it at 1. Levy-Canedo ended up with two goals on the night, both headers on corner kicks from Redder.
Koa Diorec tallied the go-ahead goal in the 20th minute on a tap-in in the goal box after Leif Lofquist pushed the ball deep.
The Seahawks were playing in only their second game all season after last weekend’s road trip to the Valley to play Redington and Houston was canceled to snowfall, so the early goal caught even Seward on its heels.
“It surprised us to come out that way too,” said head coach Dustin Phillips, who said the set play was one that the Seahawks have worked hard on in the early weeks of practice.
“We talk about it a lot,” Phillips said. “Taking them quick to catch a team off-guard, which is exactly what (Mullaly) did there.”
Kenai head coach Shane Lopez said he felt the celebration of Senior Night left the Kards with a bit of pregame jitters that contributed to a lack of focus in the early minutes.
“It’s Senior Night,” Lopez said. “It’s a fun celebration and all that, and to try to turn from that and go right into a game can sometimes be distracting. They weren’t focused and it took them a little while to get into their rhythm.
“They got a lesson out of it.”
The program celebrated 10 Kenai seniors before the boys game, with Zach Stockton, Livai Castrellon, Daniel Cazares, Francisco Garmen Munarriz, Travis McKinley, Charnchon Nammoon, Jacob Howard, Connor Felchle, Redder and Levy-Canedo all receiving recognition.
The Kenai girls team recognized two varsity players in Savaya Bieber and Olivia Brewer.
Levy-Canedo said Tuesday was special for the senior class.
“It’s the last (season) playing with the boys,” Levy-Canedo said. “We’ve been playing four years since middle school, since sixth grade, but we’ve still got a long season ahead of us.”
After Levy-Canedo and Diorec scored to put Kenai into the lead midway through the first half, Lofquist got his foot on a pass to redirect into the net for a 3-1 Kenai lead in the 26th minute.
In the second half, it took less than a minute for Kenai to add to its lead as Nate Beiser received an assist from Redder to score in the first minute of the half. Travis Verkuilen scored in the 45th minute, and Kenai got two more goals from Francisco Garmen Munarriz in the 74th and Levy-Canedo in the 79th minutes.
In the girls game, the Kardinals netted eight second-half goals to run away in a lopsided score. Unofficially, Kenai outshot Seward 27-1 in the rout.
Four players tallied two goals each as Alyssa Bucho, Olivia Brewer, Karley Harden and Damaris Severson all found the netting twice.
Bucho got the game started just two minutes in on a corner kick by Brewer. Brewer’s shot was initially denied by Seward goalkeeper Makaira Williams but Bucho got her foot on the ball to float it up over Williams’ head for a goal and 1-0 lead.
Bucho notched her second goal eight minutes into the second half on another corner kick by Brewer, affirming the cohesiveness of the team.
“Our forwards just kept working together really well,” Bucho said. “We definitely started meshing a lot more today, and our defense just always talks to us and pushes us to be better.”
Kenai head coach Dan Verkuilen said he wanted the team to use Tuesday’s game to work on some valuable plays, and said there were many examples of what the Kardinals are capable of when they are operating at full potential. Several of the team’s goal came on pinpoint passing and quick shots on goal that had the Seward defense reeling.
“This was a good opportunity to move some people around and try some different combinations,” Verkuilen said. “One of the goals for the day was a lot of quick one- and two-touch passes. One of our goals was to get some give-and-go opportunities.”
Verkuilen called the Seahawks one of the better Seward teams he has seen in 20 years.
“Those girls have been playing a long time, and for us we’re a majority young team,” Seward coach Coty Beck said. “We have a lot of freshmen who are starting, so a lot of those skills are beginning skills.”
After Bucho’s opening goal, Brewer made it 2-0 in the 15th minute on a misplayed throw-in by Seward goalkeeper Makaira Williams. Jolie Peterkin made it 3-0 by halftime when she collected a rebound off Williams in the 27th minute and booted it over the goalie.
Bucho’s goal in the 48th minute in the second half sparked a furious scoring purge by Kenai, as the Kards notched four goals in five minutes. Brewer scored in the 50th minute, Hardin scored in the 52nd and 53rd minutes to put Kenai up 7-0.
Seward’s Riley VonBorstel replaced Williams in goal from there on out, and Kenai was able to score four more times. Taylor Pierce tallied a goal in the 69th minute, Severson scored twice in the 71st and 73rd minutes and Alissa Maw capped the day with a goal in the final minute of regulation.
Homer soccer sweeps Nikiski
The hosting Homer soccer teams rolled over both teams from Nikiski on Tuesday in Peninsula Conference action.
Still recuperating from games against Southeast teams last weekend, the boys beat the Bulldogs 5-1 while the Mariners steamrolled Nikiski for a 9-0 victory.
These wins bring the Homer boys to 2-1-1 in the conference and 4-3-2 overall this season. The Homer girls have not lost to a fellow conference team yet, and Tuesday’s game brought the Mariners to 2-0-2. The Lady Mariners are 4-1-4 overall this season.
The Nikiski boys are 0-3-0 in the conference and 2-3-0 overall. The girls are also 0-3-0 in the conference, and are 0-3-2 overall this season.
In the boys game, Daniel Reutov came out of the gate strong by earning Homer’s first goal unassisted less than two minutes into the first half. Reutov then assisted the second goal, which went to Austin Shafford about 4 1/2 minutes into the second half. Reutov scored again on an assist from Phinny Weston about 14 minutes into the second half, followed by a goal from Ethan Pitzman on an assist from Shafford.
Homer’s final goal was netted by Dexter Lowe late in the second half on an assist from Reutov.
Nikiski’s lone goal came from a penalty kick made by Isaiah Gray, which slipped past goalkeeper Xander Kulhanek.
Homer coach Warren Waldorf said the team is still recovering from a three-game stint in Southeast, in which his main goalie, Tucker Weston, got hurt during the first game. In Tuesday’s game, Waldorf said it looked like his team had a better idea of what they were trying to accomplish on the field.
They moved the ball better against Nikiski than they did last weekend, he said. Waldorf said he’s looking forward to giving his varsity team a rest and time to train over the next week or two.
On the girls side, the Mariners steamed ahead to a decisive victory against Nikiski, starting with three unassisted goals in the first half from Laura Inama, Kappa Reutov and Sela Weisser.
In the second half, Reutov scored again about 3 1/2 minutes in on an assist from Weisser. Inama then had two goals in a row, with assists from Reutov both times. Aiyana Cline netted a goal of her own later in the second half, unassisted, before assisting a goal by Jessica Sonnen.
In the very last minutes of the game, Paige Jones took the ball up the field from the back to score her own unassisted goal.
Coach Mike Tozzo said there were some things the team was focused on improving coming into Tuesday’s game. He said that in the Southeast games, the team had struggled with balancing the right number of players to get back on defense. They did a better job of that against Nikiski, he said.
“I also thought that we were winning a lot of 50/50 balls, and you know, really keeping our passes along the ground,” Tozzo said.
Homer chose to play into the wind during the first half on purpose, he said, so that they could work on keeping the ball low.
“I thought we accomplished a lot of the things that we set out to do today,” Tozzo said.
Still, Tozzo isn’t getting comfortable just yet. He said the team will still need to play a bit better to keep up with other teams this season, and to make sure the team is ready for the region tournament.
The girls soccer team next plays at 6 p.m. Thursday at home against Voznesenka. Both the Homer boys and girls teams will host Grace Christian this Friday at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The Homer-Nikiski report was contributed by Megan Pacer of the Homer News. Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.