Chugiak senior striker Kelly Cobb tries to hold off South's Keely Jelinek during the Wolverines' 2-1 Cook Inlet Conference win at The Dome on March 28. Cobb scored the lone goal for the Mustangs.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth
For the first 20 minutes of their match on March 28 against South at The Dome, the Chugiak girls soccer team looked unstoppable, taking an early 1-0 lead and running circles around the Wolverines.
"Then we started losing some players..." said Mustangs coach Paul Brehmer.
Chugiak which was already playing without starting goalie Bekah Zellers lost starting defenders Elyse Perez and Grace Ogden within five minutes of each other in the first half, and the Wolverines had no sympathy.
With both defenders on the bench, South took advantage of the thin Chugiak defensive corps to pull even on a Kaitlyn Zanders goal shortly before the half, and the Wolverines dominated the second to pull out a 2-1 Cook Inlet Conference win.
Perez never returned after hurting her ankle, while Ogden was used sparingly after leaving with an injury to her midsection.
Chugiak's defensive shortcomings were no more apparent than on South's winning goal. With Chugiak's defenders well forward following a Mustang attack, South sent a long pass bounding into the Chugiak half. South's Elizabeth Matthews raced past the flat-footed defense, breaking in all alone on goal and finishing with an easy tap-in that left goalie Katie Oldenkamp with little chance.
"They got caught up a little bit far and just weren't able to keep up with the attacker," Brehmer said.
Five minutes later, the Wolverines used the same long-ball approach to get Morgan Hooe running free on net. This time, Oldenkamp was up to the challenge, stoning the speedy South forward to keep things close.
The loss spoiled what had been a great opening for the Mustangs, whose crisp passes and solid defending in the opening minutes were a thing of beauty. Chugiak had a number of quality chances in the early going, including near-misses from Sue Fleurant and Sierra Humphrey that sailed just wide of the net.
The Mustangs finally broke through in the 11th minute when star forward Kelly Cobb took a perfect feed from Fleurant and outran the entire South defense, capping a powerful run with a clinical finish into the back of the net.
Cobb's pure speed and ball-handling skills drew the attention of South coach Brian Farrell, who elected to assign a shadow defender to stick with her for the entire second half.
"That's what they all do," Brehmer said of the gambit, which had defender Keely Jelinek following the Duke-bound phenom like a lost puppy.
"I hate Kelly," Jelinek was overheard telling friends after the game. "I mean, I don't hate her. She's actually really nice. But I hate having to defend her."
The loss dropped Chugiak to 1-2 on the season. The Mustangs fell 4-3 in their season-opener on March 23 to Dimond, then rebounded for a 2-0 win over East on March 26. Cobb scored twice against Dimond and once against East, while Tristyn Hall added a goal in each game.
Following the South game, Cobb was mobbed by young fans seeking autographs and some face time with the Chugiak star, something Brehmer said she'll have to get used to.
"Really there's nobody else quite like her in the state right now," he said.
But soccer is a team game, and Brehmer said getting his role players healthy will be even more crucial to Chugiak's overall success.
"I think a lot of it will just depend on if we've got all our players healthy we can be right there with (Dimond and South)," he said. "I think it's more just getting the right players in the right positions."
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727 Ext. 215.
WOLVERINES 2, MUSTANGS 1
March 28, The Dome
Chugiak 1 0 1
South 1 1 2
Chu Cobb (11)
South Zanders (34), Matthews (57)
This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, March 30, 2011.