Chugiak, Eagle River clash on the pitch
A soggy afternoon produced plenty of fireworks Monday as the Chugiak and Eagle River high school soccer teams squared off for the final crosstown grudge match of the season.
In the opener, a scrappy Eagle River girls side dug out of an early hole to forge a 1-1 Cook Inlet Conference draw, while in the nightcap the Chugiak boys kept their sinking state playoff hopes afloat with a waterlogged 2-1 win.
“We needed that tonight to keep our hope alive,” said Chugiak coach Matt Miller, whose team finished the regular season .500 in the CIC.
The Mustangs left the game still needing help to earn one of the conference’s top four spots at state. Dimond, Service and West have clinched the top three spots, leaving Chugiak (7-7, 14 points) one point ahead of South (6-5-1, 13 points) in the standings. However, the Wolverines have two games in hand — at home May 15 against Bartlett and at Service on May 19.
Marlon Irias was the hero in Monday’s game, which was played in a heavy downpour after a girls game that was nearly sprinkle-free. Irias’ second-half goal (his team-leading seventh) was the difference after the teams played to a 1-1 first half that featured an own goal by Eagle River and an equalizer by the Wolves’ Joey Herr.
Eagle River fell to 1-11-1 in the CIC, with the team’s lone win coming by forfeit over East in the season-opener. But assistant coach Chris Ruggles said the Wolves have played better of late, as evidenced by their 2-2 tie with Bartlett May 11 and the tight Monday battle with Chugiak.
“The last couple of games we’ve really started playing well,” Ruggles said of the Wolves, who finish the regular season May 18 at home against Dimond.
In the first game Monday, the rain held off until just after the end of a back-and-forth girls’ contest that featured an early goal by the Mustangs and a late one by the Wolves.
Chugiak took a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes in on a score by Mariah Morse, then held off the Wolves for the rest of the half. Following a halftime presentation to Eagle River’s two seniors Corey Frazier and Sierra Love, the Wolves came out in the second half and continued to apply pressure, but weren’t able to break through Chugiak until 10 minutes before full time, when Nicole Bedwell carried the ball deep into the heart of the Chugiak defense and blasted a 20-yard shot into the top of the net to earn the draw.
After the game, Eagle River coach Lynn Swanson said her team’s relentless effort late in the game paid big dividends.
“We really harp on them about their work rate,” said Swanson, whose team closes the regular season May 18 at home against Dimond.
Swanson also gave a nod to her seniors, who she said provide both occasional comic relief off the pitch and consistent leadership on it.
“The rest of the team just really wants to work for them,” she said.
Though his team saw its lead slip away late, Chugiak coach Franklin Lawson said his 4-7-2 squad continues to show growth as it climbs up the CIC table.
“It’s a process, and we’re going to stick with it and continue to get better,” he said.
Chugiak closes its regular season at West on May 18.