Story last updated at 1:39 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2002

Young Mariner team tested on soccer pitch
by Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writer

The Homer High School boys soccer team, short on veteran leadership, took a tough hit last Friday when its only senior succumbed to an injury during the first game of three-game visit to the Matanuska and Susitna valleys.

Starting goalkeeper David Bell collided with the upright while making a save early in the first half of the Mariners game against host Wasilla. Without their backstop, the Mariners suffered back-to-back 5-0 defeats to Wasilla and Colony before rebounding with a 3-0 win over Houston on Saturday.

Bell, who was initially dazed from a knock on the head, left the game several minutes later because he'd re-injured his knee on the play.

With only a few quarters of varsity-level game experience during last season's region tournament, Mariner coach Ed Kelly said sophomore and backup keeper Kenyon Stier was "thrown to the wolves."

Bell made an attempt to return at the start of the second half but was quickly pulled again.

The loss of Bell had the Mariners off their game most of the day and the Warriors cruised, scoring three times in the second half to salt away the win.

"Being a young team, this is the kind of thing that gets into their psyche," Kelly said of the injury to his keeper.

With Stier starting at goal against Colony, the Mariners opened Friday's game with more determination, playing the Knights to a 0-0 halftime tie as Stier turned in several outstanding saves.

But the Knights upped the pressure at the start of the second half and finally beat Stier, opening the floodgates and leading to four more goals in the half.

"That first goal sort of evaporated the team's confidence," Kelly said. "We haven't had a lot of success historically coming from behind."

Against Houston on Saturday, Stier and the Mariners overcame tired legs and found both the offense and the defense they'd been lacking in the previous two games.

After playing a scoreless first half, the Mariners pumped in three second-half goals, including the first two tallies of the season from Gonzalo Avila.

"Hopefully he's broken the ice and we can get some steady scoring from him," Kelly said of the Bolivian exchange student.

Nate Riedel set up the go-ahead-goal early in the half when he brought pressure into the Houston box, earned a free kick.

Without giving the Hawks a chance to ready themselves, Riedel instantly restarted play and kicked the ball to Brady Boone headed it into the back of the net.

The Mariners, at 2-4 overall and 1-1 in conference, face a big weekend of conference action. Bell's return is questionable, Kelly said, though with a shutout under his belt Stier has vastly more experience than he had a

week ago.