In this May 19 photo, Juneau-Douglas’s keeper Alex Mallott deflects the ball during Kayhi’s 1-0 victory over Juneau-Douglas at Fawn Mountain. Photo by Christopher Mullen Ketchikan Daily News

In this May 19 photo, Juneau-Douglas’s keeper Alex Mallott deflects the ball during Kayhi’s 1-0 victory over Juneau-Douglas at Fawn Mountain. Photo by Christopher Mullen Ketchikan Daily News

Crimson Bears make state soccer pitch their own in opening round

JDHS girls and boys defeat Homer in quarterfinal openers

The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears girls and boys soccer teams owned the 2023 ASAA Soccer State Championships pitch on Thursday, at West Anchorage High School, defeating Homer in both matches in the quarterfinals to advance to semifinal matches on Friday.

The JDHS girls topped the Lady Mariners 4-0 and the boys followed with their own 4-0 thrashing of the Mariners.

“We just got over some nerves and decided to play,” JDHS girls coach Matt Dusenberry said. “We realized it was just another game and there was nothing special we needed to do. We just needed to come out and match their intensity and good things would happen after that and they did for us.”

A taste of nerves early in the match quickly subsided as junior Cadence Plummer put in her first of three goals, nestling a shot in at roughly the 20 minute mark assisted by sophomore Milina Mazon for a 1-0 first half advantage.

Plummer muscled her way through a crowd to start the second half and made the score 2-0 unassisted.

In this May 19 photo, Juneau Douglas’s Cadence Plummer (12) and Kayhi’s Aspen Bauer (7) battle for the ball during Juneau-Douglas and Kayhi’s 1-1 tie at Fawn Mountain. Photo by Christopher Mullen Ketchikan Daily News

In this May 19 photo, Juneau Douglas’s Cadence Plummer (12) and Kayhi’s Aspen Bauer (7) battle for the ball during Juneau-Douglas and Kayhi’s 1-1 tie at Fawn Mountain. Photo by Christopher Mullen Ketchikan Daily News

“It means a lot to us just because most of our team is new to state,” Plummer said after the win. “It meant a lot just because it was the first win and it helps to set the mood for the entire tournament, helps everyone relax. They (first timers) are a lot more comfortable playing now and I’m just really happy that they are comfortable enough to play their hardest out there.”

Plummer also got into the assist stats, winning a ball and playing a perfect pass into the Homer box for freshman Peyton Wheeler to connect on for her first career state goal and a 3-0 lead.

“We have been working on it,” Dusenberry said. “We talked about the uniqueness of the Ketchikan goalie and how to look up and see and to place it where the goalie isn’t and Peyton did a good job of getting there and doing that today.”

Sophomore Adelyn Buss won a ball defensively and threaded it into Plummer who took on two backs to take it in and score for the 4-0 final.

“1-0 at the half certainly the other team is going to be thinking they have a chance,” Dusenberry said. “But when we scored our next two, wishing three minutes of each other it kind of took the wind out of the sails of the other team. You could see our kids shoulders relax and they knew they could play.”

Natalie Travis earned the team’s Hard Hat Award for calming her teammates nerves during the opening sections of the first half when the Crimson Bears were making uncharacteristic mistakes.

The JDHS girls, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, will face the No. 1 seed Kenai Kardinals in a semifinal Friday at 1 p.m. Kenai defeated No. 8 Nikiski 10-0. Other scores included No. 3 North Pole defeating #6 Grace Christian 4-2 and No. 2 Soldotna topping No. 7 Houston 3-1.

On the boys side of the pitch the Crimson Bears wasted little time putting a ball in the net, scoring three goals in the opening minutes of play.

“It was a little too easy too early,” JDHS boys coach Gary Lehnhart said. “I don’t know if I have ever seen that happen before. We just came out like we were shot out of a cannon. We scored three times in the first four minutes and then we didn’t score again until the 72nd minute.”

JDHS sophomore Kai Ciambor received a pass from senior Tayten Bennetsen to open the match and dribbled it in for a shot and a 1-0 lead.

Two minutes later Ciambor dropped a pass to sophomore Kellen Chester who shot it in.

“Kind of like a through ball,” said Lehnhart. “All three of our opening goals were kind of similar. Kind of played through the box and guys ran on to them and knocked them in.”

Buss ran onto a pass from Ciambor for the third goal.

“He kind of knocked it down and beat the goalkeeper,” Lehnhart said. “We continued to create chances but then slowly we lost our urgency. I substituted quite a bit. Then in the second half I put our starters back in and they kind of had it going again but started missing the shots. I think the whole thing kind of degenerated from there so I took them out of the game and put other guys in and got some more energy.”

JDHS freshman Jesper Bennetsen put in the final tally. Buss cross the ball in off a corner kick and Bennetsen put his head to it for a striking goal.

“That was fun to see,” Lehnhart said.

Lehnhart also noted Jesper Bennetsen for his defensive work in the game and for the season.

“He has just gotten better and better and better,” he said. “He played the whole game.”

JDHS, the No. 1 seed advances to a semifinal against Southeast rival Ketchikan, the No. 4 seed, at 3 p.m. Friday. Kayhi defeated Kenai 1-0.

“They are a good team,” said Lehnhart. “This is their best team ever. They are definitely tough to play. And it is hard to play a team for the fifth time. That’s a lot. But we had to do it last year with TM too.”

In other boys action No. 3 seed Soldotna topped No. 6 Grace 2-0 and No. 2 Palmer tipped No. 7 North Pole 3-2.

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