A last-minute penalty kick block capped a stellar defensive showing by the Nikiski girls on their home turf Thursday evening against Kodiak.
Nikiski goalkeeper Brianna Vollertsen got both her mitts squarely on a penalty kick taken by Kodiak sophomore Abi Coombs in the final minute of stoppage time, which lasted two minutes, helping to preserve a 2-0 shutout victory for the Bulldogs. The PK was taken after a Nikiski defender was called for a handball in the box.
“All the credit goes to our backline,” said Nikiski girls coach Troy Zimmerman. “Kodiak played us tough, and they were better than the last time we played them.”
Daisy Schwenke, Avery Kornstad, Emma Wik and Melanie Sexton all anchored the persistent Nikiski defensive line, and Vollertsen stopped six shots on goal by Kodiak, five coming in the second half. The Bulldogs offense notched 12 total shots on goal.
The win was the third in a row for the surging Bulldogs, a streak that includes wins over Houston and Voznesenka in the past five days. Thursday’s win boosted Nikiski to 3-3 overall this year, and in the last three games, Nikiski has given up just one goal.
“I can’t remember the last time we had three in a row, so it feels good,” Zimmerman said.
Rylee Jackson and Kelcei Zoda scored for the Bulldogs to clinch the Northern Lights Conference victory.
The Bulldogs outshot the Bears 7-1 in the first half, but it was not until the 16th minute that Nikiski broke through the Kodiak defense. Jackson delivered a shot from the right side of the goalie box at a tough angle, but the ball managed to slip by Kodiak goalie Esme Lopez for a 1-0 home lead.
Kodiak began to press harder on offense in the second half, but each attack was contained nicely by the Nikiski back line.
Bulldogs midfielder Chloe Braun was charged with a yellow card in the 62nd minute for an aggressive play on field, but the cautionary ruling seemingly helped to spark Nikiski’s second goal of the day, as right winger Zykiah Cooney found Zoda in the box on a cross just a minute later for the goal and a 2-0 lead.
Shortly after the officials announced two minutes of stoppage time, Nikiski was called for the handball and Kodiak was given its chance to close up the lead with a goal, but Vollertsen denied the Bears that chance.
“There’s been a lot of positivity,” Zimmerman explained. “No one is pointing fingers when we have a letdown and the girls are just keeping up the enthusiasm.”
Zimmerman added that Saturday’s home game against Soldotna will really give the Bulldogs a chance to see where they stand. Nikiski lost 7-0 to Soldotna earlier this season.
Kodiak boys 3, Nikiski 1
An improved Kodiak Bears squad showed up to Nikiski’s field Thursday afternoon and left with a big NLC victory to move to 5-2 overall.
Junior forward Emerson Portillo scored a pair of goals to lead the Kodiak charge, and Jose Cortez added a goal as well.
“I’m proud of the way the boys played,” said Kodiak coach Eric Waltenbaugh. “We’ve improved a lot since last year.”
After winning just two games all of last year, the first year for the Kodiak soccer program, the Bears are showing continued signs that they are ready to contend at the NLC tournament in May. In addition to Thursday’s win over Nikiski, the Kodiak boys have two wins over Homer, a team that has been to state in three of the past four years.
“We’ve just been working hard and we’re showing that we deserve it,” Waltenbaugh said.
Meanwhile, the Nikiski boys dropped to 1-4 overall this year, and Bulldogs coach Jim Coburn chalked it up to not putting enough scoring chances on net.
“I’m not surprised Kodiak was tough, they’re a better team and they were well organized,” Coburn said. “We had our chances on goal, and we didn’t score.”
With scoring chances falling about even — Kodiak held a slim 11-10 advantage — any goal was bound to be the game winner. Kodiak opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a through ball to Portillo, who slotted it in past goalkeeper Warren Gage for a 1-0 Bears lead.
It wasn’t until the 47th minute in the second half that Nikiski managed to equalize. Dylan Broussard beat the Kodiak defense and got behind goalie Matt Schauff to deliver the goal and tie things up at one apiece.
“Nikiski played a strong physical game, and once they got that goal, they kept pressuring us,” Waltenbaugh said. “They like to play that long ball, and our defenders were caught flat footed.”
Gage proved to be on his game in net for Nikiski, as evidenced by a stellar save in the 57th minute, but Cortez finally beat him out on a shot that rattled around the box in the 64th minute, eventually going in to give Kodiak a 2-1 lead.
Portillo scored with two minutes left in regulation to seal the victory.