The Nikiski and Redington soccer teams clashed Friday at Nikiski High School on senior day for the Bulldogs.
The reason for the result is that Redington has no seniors. And the Huskies have a lot of class.
The Bulldogs notched a sweep, with the girls winning 4-0 and the boys winning 5-1. It is the first win of the season for the boys and fourth for the girls.
Saturday, the Nikiski boys finished up their season with a 7-1 loss to Kodiak while the girls closed the regular season with a 2-2 tie against Kodiak that left them a 4-8-1.
Redington is in just its second year as a school, so both the girls and boys teams do not have any seniors. Last season, the Huskies boys did not win a game, and this season the team finishes 3-12 overall, with two of those wins coming by forfeit.
But when a rebuilding Bulldogs boys squad showed up Friday with just nine players, Redington coach Tony Brooke didn’t think about going for the easy win. Nine players is enough to avoid a forfeit, but Brooke, whose numbers are up to 19 from 10 last season, still could have put a full 11 on the field to gain a huge advantage.
Instead, Brooke thought back to what it felt like to play with 10 all the time last season against full sides. He put out nine to play against the Bulldogs.
“We decided to hold a few of our guys out due to sportsmanship,” Brooke said. “I want the guys to have fun playing soccer. There’s no reason to play with an unfair advantage, especially with two programs trying to build.”
Nikiski earned several great chances early in the game, but Redington found the back of the net first when Samuel Pike scored on a though ball.
Bulldogs freshman Michael Mysing immediately responded two minutes later by weaving through multiple Redington defenders and scoring.
“He kept making silly mistakes in the first half,” Nikiski coach Harrison Deveer said of Mysing. “We could have gone up with the first goal.
“I think when they scored, he thought he had to do something about it.”
With the ice broken, the young Bulldogs started to show some of the talent Deveer has been talking about all season. Before the half, Brock Sarks scored after collecting a goal kick and Martin Cox scored on a cross from Sarks.
“The kids played awesome,” Deveer said. “They were able to do the things they do in practice because they had a team they could compete with, with the same numbers.”
In the second half, Sarks scored on a corner kick from Mysing and Clayton Larson, Nikiski’s lone senior and a first-year soccer player, scored the first goal of his career. At one point, Mysing even successfully executed a “Rainbow” move that warmed the hearts of Pele fans everywhere.
“They were having fun, and that’s what the sport is about — having fun and learning how to play,” Brooke said. “They definitely have the skill.”
Deveer said the highlights of the game for him was Larson’s work paying off in a goal, Sarks’ play on the outside and the tireless defense of George Napoka.
Brooke paid special tribute to Gunar Sunn, who gutted out the last three weeks of the season despite a bad knee.
Nikiski girls 4, Redington 0
After a pair of 1-0 losses to Soldotna and Homer this week, the Bulldogs broke the scoring drought for a successful sendoff for seniors Molly Cason, Kelcei Zoda, Avery Kornstad, Dessy Napoka and Brianna Vollertsen.
“I tell the girls once you get one, you’ll get two,” Nikiski coach Linda Zimmerman said. “They were just hungry for another one.”
Just seven minutes into the game, Emma Wik scored for the Bulldogs. Depsite going against the wind, Nikiski was able to enter halftime at 1-0, with Vollertsen on the way to a shutout.
Verity Feltman then got in a generous mood, assisting on all three second-half goals. Just three minutes into the half, Feltman found Deidra Lamping on a cross. The same combination hooked up on a corner kick just 24 minutes later. Finally, Feltman played a pass up to Jordyn Stock, who chipped one over the goalie.
“They are, as a whole, playing way better defensively,” Zimmerman said. “Everybody has improved.
“Dessy Napoka said her proudest accomplishment is being part of a team that has improved this much. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Redington coach Francisco Campbell, whose team is now 1-8-2, said his squad has improved right along with the Bulldogs. Nikiski notched a 3-0 win over Redington on April 20.
“This is our second year and most of the girls are second-year players,” Campbell said. “Abigaile Fuller is the only actual soccer player on the team. They’ve come a long way from last year.”
In particular, the coach pointed to the play of sweeper Courtney Crocket, calling her the backbone of the team.
Nikiski girls 2, Kodiak 2
The host Bulldogs and Bears played to a tie Saturday that left them knotted for the fourth and final spot into the Northern Lights Conference tournament out of the Southern Division.
Zimmerman said she talked with the Kodiak coach about which team would make it, and there was no conclusion. Zimmerman said the Bulldogs will likely find out Monday afternoon who is in.
“I’m crossing my fingers and hoping we can make it to regions,” Zimmerman said.
Lamping scored eight minutes in to put the Bulldogs up 1-0, but by the 53rd minute Kodiak was holding a 2-1 advantage.
In the 58th minute, Lamping equalized on an assist from Emma Wik.
“Deidra Lamping the last two days is really coming into her own,” Zimmerman said. “She’s really learning the position well and making great tactical decisions.”
Kodiak boys 7, Nikiski 1
Mysing had the lone goal of the game for the Bulldogs when his free kick bounced in off defenders.
Deveer said this was a tough season due to low numbers, but optimism is high for the future.
“Given what we had, we did what we could do to get ready for next year,” Deveer said. “I’ll try and get the boys together all summer to play and get ready for next year.”