The Nikiski girls and boys soccer teams both defeated Seward on the first day of the Peninsula Conference soccer tournament in Homer.
The No. 4 seed Bulldogs girls, who triumphed 7-0, move on to face top-seeded Soldotna today at noon in a semifinal clash in which a berth to state is up for grabs. The Stars own 2-0 and 8-0 victories over Nikiski this season.
The No. 4 seed Nikiski boys, who won 2-0, play top seed Kenai at 2 p.m. in a semifinal where the winner goes to state. The Kards topped the Bulldogs 4-1 and 8-0 this season.
The other semifinals feature the No. 2 seed Homer girls and No. 3 seed Kenai at 4 p.m. and the No. 2 seed Homer boys and No. 3 seed Soldotna at 6 p.m.
Nikiski head coach Linda Zimmerman said the members of her team were excited and energized going into Thursday’s game. The Bulldogs went up 3-0 in the first half, with Jordyn Stock scoring twice — once assisted by Emma Wik — and America Jeffreys adding another score.
The team has three exchange students playing on it this year.
“For them, this is really special,” she said. “They don’t participate in sports back home.”
Zimmerman said the good weather also helped keep her team in good spirits while they hustled against the Seahawks.
“I was really proud of the girls,” she said. “… I couldn’t have asked for a better game.”
In the second half, Stock finished off her hat trick and Wik, Tika Zimmerman and McKinlee Jeffreys added goals.
When it comes to the game Nikiski will play against Soldotna, Zimmerman said the Bulldogs will need to communicate more and keep their triangles tighter.
“All these teams want to advance on,” she said. “All these teams want to upset another team. And I just told them, ‘You’ve got to dig deep and you’ve got to believe in yourself.’”
Seward head coach Coty Beck said that overall this season, his team, which is on the young side, has progressed every game.
“We’re not super well-versed when it comes to soccer, so I think the more these girls play and the more they get involved, especially throughout the summer and throughout the rest of the year, and stay focused, we’re just going to be that much better next year,” he said.
The Nikiski boys got a goal from Gavin White in the eighth minute and Isaiah Gray in the 11th minute of the second half to advance.
Nikiski head coach Harrison Deveer said the win wasn’t an easy one, nor was it assumed heading into the first game of the tournament.
“It was a scary one,” he said. “Because Seward showed up. They showed up and they played really well. You know, I was afraid coming into this game because they always do that to us.”
Nikiski started off strong, Deveer said, but Seward got back in the game and had several opportunities to even the score. One thing Deveer said he had the Bulldogs do to hold Seward back was press the Seahawks.
“Seward’s got a young team, and when you put pressure on a young team like that, it’s easy (for them) to make mistakes,” he said.
Deever said the Bulldogs have been working on utilizing their outside midfielders more, and that the team did a good job of that Thursday.
“We were able to open up the field,” he said. “They took the ball outside, crossed it back inside, and it worked out pretty good.”
Seward head coach Dustin Phillips said the short season Seward had this year definitely affected their level of play in the tournament.
“We were just kind of getting into a groove,” he said. ” … We accomplished our goal, though. We got better every game, and we kept playing better soccer each and every week. It wasn’t our day today, but they boys played hard — they all played really hard, so that’s all I can really ask.”