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Story Last modified at 5:52 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wolves bite back to gain respect
Weary Mustangs still on the march

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

After years of getting sand kicked in their faces by the bullies of the Cook Inlet Conference, the Eagle River boys soccer team has begun to stand up for themselves.

"At Eagle River, the history shows we haven't really put a lot of ball in the net," said captain Mikai Hulse. "But we have a team that's capable of doing it."

Though sporting just a 2-10-1 record this season, the Wolves are no longer mere practice cones for CIC squads to dribble around. And teams don't like it.

That was in evidence on April 30, when the Wolves and West Eagles tangled in a testy 1-0 West victory that included three yellow cards shown to each side.

Hulse said West's players seemed frustrated that Eagle River was able to hold their own – and more.

"I think it was just me getting the ball from them and stepping up," he said.

To a point, coach Luke Almon agreed.

"I think that West thought it would be probably an easier game, and when it was scoreless until the last 20 minutes, they got really frustrated," he said.

However, Almon said he felt like his team could have done a better job keeping its own composure.

"We shouldn't have reacted to their frustration the way we did," he said.

Still, Almon was pleased with the effort overall.

"It was probably one of our best chances to pick one up in conference, so it's disappointing to lose. But we played pretty well most of the game," he said.

Hulse said Eagle River just needs to take the next step from merely holding their own to actually putting up some victories.

"We've just gotta start doing it," he said.

Lathrop 1, Eagle River 0

Eagle River's aggressiveness cost the Wolves dearly on April 28, a 1-0 loss to Lathrop in a non conference game at Eagle River.

"That one I was kinda disappointed about," said Wolves coach Luke Almon.

Lathrop's lone goal was scored on a free kick from about 20 yards out that was awarded after a sloppy Dacota Wood tackle.

"We never should have committed the foul in the first place," Almon said.

A traditional CIC doormat, this year's improved Wolves have shown a willingness to mix it up with anyone this season. And the team has several players with both soccer and hockey backgrounds – Wood among them – who don't shy away from physical play. But sometimes that aggressiveness comes with a big price.

"It doesn't pay off if you start getting fouls called on yourself," Almon said.

Dimond 1, Chugiak 0

Chugiak fell 1-0 to Dimond on April 28 at The Dome in Anchorage, but Mustangs coach George Campnell said his team had nothing to hang their heads over after losing to the first-place Lynx.

"That was probably the best game we've played all year," Campnell said. "I'm absolutely proud of how they fought."

The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the third-place Mustangs, who seem to have firmly established themselves as one of the top teams in the Cook Inlet Conference.

"I think we have, I think we're in that position," he said.

Campnell was particularly pleased with his defensive corps. He said Dare Hedum's shins were basically one big bruise after the game.

"And Nathan Macalino absolutely shut their skill players down," he said.

Chugiak 2, West Valley 0

A road-weary Mustangs squad rebounded from its first loss in a month with an uneven 2-0 win over West Valley on April 29 at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium.

"We were so flat and tired," Campnell said. "It was our fourth game in five days."

Chugiak did enough to win by turning on the jets after a scoreless first half.

"Fifteen minutes into the second half, they just clicked and started playing the way they know how," he said.

Isaac Wolf scored both goals off assists from Nathan Macalino and Brad Fussner.

The nonconference win lifted Chugiak to 8-3-1.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, May 4, 2011.