Kenai Central girls soccer coach Dan Verkuilen entered Tuesday with some concern to how his team would respond after a week off from game action, but it didn’t take long to quell his fears.
The Kardinals trounced the Bulldogs 7-1 in a Peninsula Conference contest at Nikiski High School. Later in the evening, the Kenai boys defeated Nikiski 8-0 to complete a boys-girls sweep for the Kardinals.
“One thing was we didn’t want to come out flat,” Verkuilen said. “Being on the (natural) grass is different with the ball movement being a little slower, but the girls responded quick and it was nice to get that early lead.”
In its first game action since an 11-0 win over Seward on April 23, Kenai scored two goals within a minute of each other, starting with Karley Harden’s poke into the net in the seventh minute, which was followed by Bethany Morris’ strike on a slick cross from Olivia Brewer.
Morris went on to tally a hat trick for Kenai, showcasing her speed and ball-handling skills in her second year with the team.
“She’s coming on,” Verkuilen said. “I saw a lot of it last year with Bethany, just that formation of being a good forward and outside mid, and this year she’s kind of grown into her body and has deceptive moves. Those long legs can separate from you.”
Karley Harden finished with two goals, while Alyssa Bucho and Taylor Pierce also scored for the Kards, who moved to 3-0-2 and 4-1-2 overall this season.
Nikiski fell to 1-3-0 and 1-3-2 overall, and got its lone goal from Jordyn Stock on a second-half penalty kick in the 55th minute.
Nikiski head coach Linda Zimmerman said after losing 8-0 to Soldotna on Monday, the loss to Kenai looked better to her.
“I thought they played better today,” Zimmerman said. “I know the score doesn’t show that, I think (goalie) Abby (Bystedt) had an off day, but we’re all going to have an off day.”
Bystedt played the whole game for Nikisk in goal, while Kailey Hamilton held tough in goal for Kenai, only allowing the PK shot.
Kenai led 3-0 at halftime, including a second goal by Morris in the 23rd minute on a through ball by Bucho. Harden and Morris kept the good times rolling for the Kards with two goals in the first five minutes of the second half to put Kenai up 5-0.
Stock’s PK cut the lead to 5-1, and Bucho and Pierce added insurance strikes in the 69th and 80th minutes, respectively.
Kenai boys 8, Nikiski 0
Kardinals sophomore Leif Lofquist scored a hat trick and junior Braedon Pitsch earned the blank sheet in goal to help the Kenai boys roar to a dominant victory Tuesday at Nikiski.
The win lifted Kenai to 5-0-1 in the Peninsula Conference and 5-2-1 overall, while Nikiski dropped to 1-5 and 3-5 overall.
Kenai head coach Shane Lopez said competing on Nikiski’s smaller field with natural grass forced the Kards to adapt, but still allowed them to play their style of game.
“They have a smaller field, so it’s kind of interesting to have a shot on target from midfield,” Lopez said.
In the first meeting of the year between the two sides on April 11, the Bulldogs showed they weren’t messing around by forging a 1-1 halftime tie with Kenai before falling in a 4-1 loss.
Tuesday on Nikiski’s home field, Kenai was not about to let that happen again, and senior Damien Redder and Lofquist each found the netting in the first half to put Kenai up 2-0 at halftime.
The Kards sealed the win in the second half with goals from Francisco Garmen Munarriz, Travis McKinley and Redder and Lofquist again.
Lopez said moving James Baisden and Johann Carranza around paid dividends as both midfield options played well, and added that Roman Custodio stepped up on the defensive line.