It was a beautiful evening for the long-awaited return of Kayhi Kings soccer — and the home squad took full advantage of the occasion with a 3-0 win over the visiting Homer Mariners on Thursday at Esther Shea Field.
Thursday’s match was the first Kings game since April 2021 — and the first home contest since May 2019. Because of the pandemic, the full 2020 season and all but two games of the 2021 season were canceled.
It was a fine night for the return of Kings soccer, with brilliant sunshine warming an otherwise crisp and cool early evening as the two teams took to the turf.
The Kings were unhurried in the first half, as their skilled midfield controlled the ebb and flow of play and largely kept the Mariners pinned back on defense.
After missing an early chance, Kayhi scored its first goal of the 2022 season in the seventh minute when Atreyu Davis threaded a mid-tempo ground strike through defenders and into the right side of the goal.
Kayhi launched a couple more shots off in the middle minutes of the half while the midfield of players such as Apollo Jasper, Shawn Cadiente, Aiden Miller and Davis helped keep the Mariners from gaining any momentum. Any thing that made it past the midfielders was quickly shut down by the back line.
Then, an impressive series of short, quick passes between Jasper and Miller opened enough space in front of the Homer goal for Miller to take a left-footed shot that put the Kings up 2-0 in about the 29th minute.
There was a tense moment in around the 35th minute when a Homer player got an opening and appeared headed for a sure goal. Kayhi goalie Eddie Gomez got a hand on the initial shot and slowed the attack enough for defenseman Conner Ray to reach the scene and tangle up the play enough to somehow prevent a Mariners score.
Leading 2-0 going into the second half, Kayhi continued to stymie the Homer offense, but started to push the ball forward with more determination.
Kayhi’s big center forward Tosh Ratzat rumbled through the defense a couple of times early in the second half before breaking free of a defender and rifling a low hard shot into the right side of the Homer goal to give the Kings a 3-0 lead in the 29th minute. Ratzat’s overall play earned the team’s player of the game honors, according to the coaches.
“He’s creating a lot of opportunities,”Kayhi co-coach Jacob Potts said.
That 3-0 score held through the end of the match, giving Kayhi a win to mark the Kings return to the soccer pitch.
The Kings looked like a team that had a lot more playing time than it actually has.
“They played really well,” Potts said after the game. “They came together really well as a team and, you know, they're trusting each other out there. They're passing the ball. They're moving.
“And, I think trust is the biggest thing. You know, it's hard to feel a really good player to trust, you know this guy you're passing to, am I gonna get the ball back? Am I gonna lose the ball? ... But they trust each other. They move the ball, they play really smart. And by doing that, you get really good opportunities. And I think we had a lot of opportunities, even on the ones we didn't score.”
Co-Coach Juan Robles praised the Kings' defending.
“I want to shout out the defense, too,” Robles said. "Keeping a clean sheet isn't easy. And I mean, even though our team had the grand majority of the opportunities, that's all attributed from the collective of everybody just playing defense, shutting any opportunity down early.”
Overall, said Potts, the team is just “super crazy happy to just have a game,” and he voiced appreciation that Homer came down to Southeast Alaska to play.
The Kings were ready to get the season started.
“They're just excited to play at this point, you know, after not having it for two years,” Potts said. “So overall I think we're all happy and not satisfied. I keep telling them don't be satisfied with one win. We’ve got to just keep it going.”
Kayhi had been looking forward to playing again on Friday and Saturday at home against the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears. However, due to a flight cancellation, those games will not occur this weekend, and will be rescheduled for a later time, according to Kayhi’s acting soccer activities director, Beth Sandefur.