Boy soccer players from Homer and Kenai ended a high-paced struggle in a tie Tuesday night on the Mariner home field.
The game ended 1-1, bringing the Mariners to 3-1-1 overall and 1-1-1 in the Peninsula Conference. The Kardinals move to 2-2-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the conference.
Kenai’s lone goal came about 24 minutes into the first half from sophomore Leif Lofquist.
Homer’s answering goal came early in the second half from junior Daniel Reutov on an assist from sophomore Phinny Weston, who played his first game of the season Tuesday night. Senior Ethan Pitzman also played for the first time, Coach Warren Waldorf said, having only returned to town the night before.
Homer took several shots in the second half, but couldn’t get more than one past keeper Braedon Pitsch.
“Did you see that goal keeper down there?” Waldorf said. “He was huge. … he had a couple of nice saves.”
“(Kenai) had a good back line, you know, and they just kept knocking it out of there,” he continued. “It was tough to find a way through.”
Waldorf commended his team for fighting back from being one down, especially after he made an adjustment early in the second half, causing the Mariners to play a completely different system.
“We took advantage of the sun and the wind at our back in the second half, and that was a beautiful goal that they scored,” he said.
Waldorf also acknowledged that his team held off Kenai’s offense while operating with one less player on the back line.
The Mariners are headed next to three games in the Southeast, with what Waldorf said will be short rosters. He hopes to come back without any injuries. He then looks forward to resting the team a bit, which is finally complete in terms of its players.
A few miles up the road, the host Kenai Central and Homer girls played to a scoreless tie Tuesday in Peninsula Conference action.
As it often does this time of year at Ed Hollier Field, a cold wind streamed across the pitch, making the ball hard to settle, especially on the fast surface of artificial turf.
“The wind, of course, is always a factor,” said Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen.
The Mariners are now 3-0-2 overall and 1-0-2 in the league, while the Kardinals are 2-1-1 overall and 1-0-1 in the league.
“It was a weird game,” Homer coach Mike Tozzo said. “There was lots of kicking. The wind was definitely a factor.”
Homer has now tied traditional conference powerhouses Soldotna and Kenai early in the season, signaling more tight competition to come.
“That’s what you want — more competition,” Verkuilen said. “We just don’t want to show up and make it to state every year.”
Of the two coaches, Verkuilen was happier with his team’s play. The Kardinals were able to take 10 shots, putting eight on frame.
In a 2-1 victory over North Pole on Saturday, the Kards had 24 shots and put 12 on frame, with two finding the back of the net.
“We’re making gradual progress and that’s what we talk about,” Verkuilen said. “We had better shot placement, inside-outside passing and communication.”
Both teams would have had to be extra precise to score because Homer goalie Ali McCarron and Kenai goalie Kailey Hamilton were alert in picking up any stray balls in the box.
“Both goalies are probably two of the best goalies in the state,” Verkuilen said. “You have to be good to get it past either of them.”
Tozzo said his team had trouble mounting much of an attack while Kenai was able to break through with some chances on his defense. In the 25th minute, McCarron had to make a diving save on a shot by Damaris Severson.
“Ali had a great game,” Tozzo said. “She had to work a lot and that’s not what we like to see. She saved us.”
Tozzo said his team played better in the second half.
Verkuilen liked the work of Olivia Brewer and Alyssa Bucho up front. Severson and Alissa Maw put up stout resistance on defense, while Bethany Morris distributed the ball well.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeff Helminiak of the Peninsula Clarion wrote the second half of this story.