Both Homer soccer teams established themselves in Peninsula Conference play Tuesday, winning games against Nikiski High School.
The Mariner girls blanked the Bulldogs 3-0, while the boys trounced their opponents 6-1.
Freshman Laura Inama and sophomore Eve Brau gave the Mariners a nice lead, each scoring a goal in the first half. In the second half, Andie Sonnen came through with their third and final goal to defeat Nikiski.
Coach Mike Tozzo, now in his third year in that position, said the girls did about how he expected them to against the Bulldogs.
“They’re (Nikiski) a well-coached team,” Tozzo said. “They’re not a pushover. And our goal today was to complete passes. … I mean, we had one of our highest totals for passing today since I’ve been coaching.”
Besides passing, Tozzo said he set goals for his players to get more practice pushing up the field and getting the ball into open spaces. He also wanted them to “utilize the drop” and learn that playing backward down the field “doesn’t hinder you from moving forward.”
“I thought we did a really good job of working that goal and then meeting it as well,” he said. “The girls did a good job of hustling.”
“Our other goal was to control the pace of the game and not let Nikiski … slow us down or, you know, make us play to some other level that we aren’t used to playing at,” Tozzo continued. “And I thought we did a good job of dictating the pace of the game.”
Something the girls still need to work on this season is their level of aggression when it comes to the 18-yard box, or the attacking third of the field. In the past the team has done a poor job of utilizing open space and taking shots, Tozzo said. He noted that in Tuesday’s game, his players were taking more shots than usual.
“You know, goalies don’t get scared if no one ever shoots on them,” he said. “… So, you know, one of our goals is to just take more shots, be a little bit more aggressive, take chances. You know, if you miss, so what? Come back down (and) do it again.”
Tozzo has got quite a young team this year, with 11 or 12 freshmen, about nine sophomores, five or six juniors and only two seniors. At the same time, the team has expanded quite a bit. Tozzo said he’s gone from only about 12 players last season to a whopping 28 this year.
Their goal is always to make it past the regional tournament, which Tozzo said they have yet to do under his coaching. The restructuring of the Division II conference should help all peninsula teams have a better chance to do that, he said.
If playing back is a move the Mariner girls still need to master, they can certainly look to their male counterparts, who used the technique constantly in their game Tuesday, which they won 6-1.
The Mariners pulled ahead early, leading the Bulldogs 3-1 at the half. They went on to score three more goals in the second half to clinch their win.
Cody Handley notched Nikiski’s lone goal on a corner kick.
Homer’s Charles Rohr made half the team’s shots, while Simon Dye, Oliver Beck and Daniel Reutov each contributed their own. Reutov also had an assist.
Head Coach Warren Waldorf said the game went about how he expected it to go.
“You could tell that they were working on their passing game today,” he said. “And they worked pretty hard at it all the game. And every once in a while it would create a chance, and they missed quite a few shots, but they were good chances and just didn’t go in. So we have some work to do there upfront obviously.”
Waldorf praised Nikiski’s goalkeeper as talented and said he was glad he played Tuesday so that the Mariners could have an interesting game.
“We’re aiming pretty high this year,” Waldorf said of the season’s outlook.
He did caution that it’s early in the season. He’ll have to keep his players healthy, as injuries to key players could have a drastic effect. Waldorf also conceded that every other peninsula team will also be getting better with each game.
Both soccer teams will face off against Grace Christian School in nonconference play on Friday, and against Seward High School on Saturday. Both games are away.