Story last updated at 2:00 p.m. Thursday, April 25, 2002

Homer kicks off soccer at last
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

photo: sports
  Photo by R. J. Kelly, Homer News
Freshman Nate Riedel chases the ball during practice on Bishop's Beach last Friday  
Homer High School will finally return to the soccer pitch, as the boys and girls soccer teams open their short seasons at home today against Grace Christian in a pair of nonconference games.

The season was scheduled to open last week with the Mariners on the road in Nikiski but those games were canceled, as were Monday's games against Soldotna.

After waiting to get the season started, Mariner soccer now goes into overdrive. Because the normally short five-week, 10-game season, is now compressed into four weeks, the Mariner soccer teams will begin their seasons playing three games in as many days. After Grace, the Mariners host Seward on Friday and then top off their weekend with a road trip to Nikiski on Saturday.

The Mariner boys will field a young team looking to add experience and seasoning to its on-field skills, head coach Ed Kelly said.

The only senior on the team is goalie David Bell, who for the first time will get the nod as a starter, Kelly said.

"This year he's really been throwing himself into the job," Kelly said. "He's made huge improvements in his performance and he's definitely earned the job."

Kelly said he expect to see a lot of leadership from his three exchange students <> striker Gonzalo Avila of Bolivia, midfielder Stefan Katz of Switzerland and fullback Stefan From-Moeller of Denmark.

"They just bring in a very skillful game," Kelly said. "Their touches on the ball are just so much sweeter than most American players we see. They should be really exciting to watch."

Because of lack of upperclassmen returning, freshmen Nate Riedel and Joe Hoanin will get a chance to start.

Kelly said his squad has the skills to stay "in the mix" of Region III competition, hopefully improving on last year's 5-5 record.

The girls team returns a strong defensive core from last year's squad, which finished 6-6 in region play. The Mariners were bounced from the region tournament by Wasilla in the first round.

The Mariners will be returning solid cast of seniors from last season, including: Syverine Abrahamson, Hannah Baechler, Kelly Beile, Lindsay Horst.

Chaunna Deitz, also a senior, came out for a shot the goalie spot vacated by all-region net-minder Alex Drathman, who graduated last spring. Deitz hasn't played in goal since she was in middle school, said Mariners' head coach Mickey Todd.

Whomever ends up starting in goal should have a solid and experienced defense guarding the box, Todd said. Unfortunately, without last season's best offensive weapon Fianna Condon, goals will be at a premium.

"With the players we have returning, our defense will be stronger than last year," Todd added. "And if we are capable of putting the ball in the back of the net, we should be real competitive in our region."

With the fields still recovering from winter's snow and with five other Mariner teams competing for gym time, the soccer teams have been forced to do a little scrimmaging in the parking lot. During some preseasons, Todd's team takes to the beach for some full "field" intra-squad games. But the timing of the low tides hasn't provided the opportunity yet.

Today, the girls start off against Grace at 4 p.m., followed by the boys at 6 p.m. Both games are scheduled for the upper field. On Friday, games are again at 4 and 6 p.m. against Seward. On Saturday, Nikiski hosts the Mariners at 10 a.m. and noon.