The Nikiski soccer teams pulled out a nonconference sweep of Houston Friday at Nikiski High School, helping to build momentum as the regular season comes to a close.
With the region tournament upcoming, the Bulldogs beat the Hawks 5-0 in the girls game and 5-1 in the boys contest, injecting a surge of confidence at the end of the season.
“Last time we played Houston, we played down,” said boys coach Harrison Deveer said. “I’m glad we started strong and didn’t play down.”
Saturday, the Nikiski boys defeated Redington 7-1 while the Bulldogs and Huskies girls played to a 3-all tie.
The Nikiski boys improved to 6-6-0 overall with the win, while the Nikiski girls moved to 4-6-3 overall.
In the boys game, Isaiah Gray tallied a hat trick and Michael Mysing notched the other two goals to lead the Bulldogs. Gray scored twice in the first 19 minutes to give Nikiski a 2-0 lead, then Mysing followed up with a stellar goal in the 22nd minute to open up a 3-0 edge.
Deveer said he was pleased to see the squad start fast and flaunt their offensive firepower over a beatable opponent, but said late in the game the Bulldogs began lacking focus, something he wants to see change before the Peninsula Conference tournament next weekend.
“I’m all about having fun, but I don’t enjoy that kind of fun,” he said. “It’s just disrespectful to the game of soccer. I don’t like it.”
Gray’s ninth-minute score was set up for the junior striker on a rebound off Houston goalkeeper Niko Wilkenson. Gray was positioned perfectly to pounce on the loose ball.
Ten minutes later, a corner kick by Mysing was headed by Jace Kornstad, whose shot took a ricochet off a defender and right to Gray’s foot, who deposited his second goal for a 2-0 lead.
Mysing’s tally began when the agile junior midfielder faked out a defender and sent the ball through a tight window into the upper corner of the net from a tough angle.
“I keep telling him to trust in his shots,” Deveer said about Mysing. “He’s afraid to take shots because he feels if he takes shots and doesn’t score, he’s letting the team down, but I tell him to keep taking shots and take as many as he can.”
Nikiski took a 4-0 lead less than six minutes into the second half on the third goal by Gray, and Mysing connected for the second time in the 72nd minute to make it 5-0 Bulldogs.
Houston got its lone goal of the match in the second minute of stoppage time on a penalty kick. After a Nikiski player was given a charge in the box, Houston’s Lennon Gum converted on the PK to ruin the shutout by Nikiski goalkeeper Michael Eiter.
Nikiski will finish the regular season Saturday at home against Redington.
In the girls game, Emma Wik led the Nikiski attack with three goals and Jordyn Stock added two in the 5-1 victory. Bulldogs head coach Linda Zimmerman said the great execution came down to the team’s improved communication on the field, something Zimmerman has been harping on all season.
“I think it was just everyone talking better,” Zimmerman said. “We just talked about (playing) with intensity, because if we’re not talking and not playing with intensity, nothing’s going to happen.”
Zimmerman said the Bulldogs this season have sometimes played hesitantly and haven’t capitalized on scoring opportunities that are there for them, but added Friday’s game wasn’t the case.
“Sometimes I think they wait for the perfect opportunity,” she said. “And you can’t do that … it was beautiful to watch, it was beautiful soccer.”
Abby Bystedt earned the shutout in goal for Nikiski.
Wik got the scoring underway in the 13th minute with a stellar shot from a sharp angle, curving the ball around Houston goalie Seera Murachev for a 1-0 lead. Wik added a second goal in the 31st minute with a loud shot from the top of the box, putting Nikiski ahead 2-0 at halftime.
Stock got her goals in the 50th and 59th minutes, the first on a cross from America Jeffreys for the assist, and the second on a searing shot from beyond the goal box.
Wik capped her hat trick in the 62nd minute on a loose ball in the box.
Zimmerman praised the defensive line of McKinley Jeffreys, Sammy Napoka and Rosalie Anderson for warding off any balls that Houston sent their way.
Nikiski boys 7, Redington 1
The host Bulldogs ended their season with a fun game on senior night.
Deveer said the goal was to get each of the seniors a goal in the game. In the end, three of the six seniors scored.
Those seniors were Shane Weathers, Justin Harris and Jacob Smith, who got his first goal. Also for the Bulldogs, Gavin White scored twice and Michael Mysing scored twice.
Other seniors honored were Cody Handley, Jace Kornstad and Seth DeSiena. Those seniors got opportunities but could not finish.
“Overall, it was a good game and a fun game,” Deveer said. “They played together and listened to the things I’ve talked about all season.
“It was a good team win. Hopefully, it’s exactly what we needed going into regions next weekend.”
Michael Eiter nearly had the shutout in goal, stopping a PK. But Redington was able to score when Nikiski pulled six starters with 20 minutes left.
Nikiski girls 3, Redington 3
The host Bulldogs tied the nonconference match Saturday.
Tika Zimmerman and Tawnisha Freeman, from America Jeffreys, had goals in the first half. Emma Wik scored in the second half on a penalty kick.
Nikiski honored seniors Wik, Abby Bystedt, Hannah Young, McKinsey Pitt and manager Zina Schwenke.
Bulldogs head coach Linda Zimmerman said it was the end of a long week and her team played like it. She said the Alaska Schools Activities Association needs to take a look at potential health impacts of playing four or five games in a week.
“We played flat,” Zimmerman said. “It is what it is.”
The coach said Wik’s hustle and Bystedt’s play in goal really stood out. America Jeffreys also showed a lot of hustle, while Tika Zimmerman won most of her 50-50 balls.