Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Kai Ciambor outmaneuvers Soldotna’s Daniel Heath during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Kai Ciambor outmaneuvers Soldotna’s Daniel Heath during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

JDHS comes up short in state soccer title games

Boys fall behind early in 4-1 loss to Soldotna, girls miss opportunities in 2-0 loss to Kenai.

In the end it was a silver season for both soccer teams at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé as the boys were defeated 4-1 and the girls 2-0 during the championship games of the Division II state tournament played Saturday at Wasilla High School.

The second-seeded Crimson Bears boys (9-3-2 overall) fell behind top-seed Soldotna High School (18-0-1) on a goal within the first two minutes and trailed 3-0 until Juneau’s Ryan Thibodeau scored moments before halftime. But they were unable to narrow the gap further as Soldotna scored an additional goal during the second half to claim the title JDHS won the past two years.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Peyton Wheeler sends the ball past Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Peyton Wheeler sends the ball past Kenai Central’s Kylee Verkuilen during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The JDHS girls (12-1-1) entered the game as the undefeated top seed, facing off against second-seed Kenai Central High School (17-2-1). Kenai scored its first goal in usual fashion partway through the first half when a deflection off a corner kick ended up barely inside the net, resulting in play continuing until an official belated called it a score.

The Crimson Bears girls, which outshot Kenai 4-3 during the first half, also had an ideal opportunity to tie the score on a penalty shot with about 20:30 remaining in the first half that was saved over the top goalpost.

Such moments where inches mattered were the difference during what was mostly an evenly matched game, JDHS Head Coach Matt Dusenberry said.

“Soccer can go that way where you give yourself the best chance — and I thought the kids did give themselves the best chance — and sometimes you gotta tip your hat to the opposition,” he said. “They were able to put theirs in and some of ours just didn’t our way, but we certainly can’t say we didn’t create opportunities and we didn’t give up.”

The remainder of the game continued to be a back-and-forth battle, with Kenai getting the clinching score with about 20 minutes remaining on a shot close to the goal that went just above the keeper’s outstretched arms.

In the boys’ game, Soldolta’s Andrew Arthur scored three goals for the Stars, including the first two during the opening 15 minutes of the game.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Jesper Bennetsen and Soldotna’s Andrew Arthur race for the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Jesper Bennetsen and Soldotna’s Andrew Arthur race for the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

The Kardinals girls and Stars boys both won state for the first time — Kenai after losing in the final last season, Soldotna after losing finals in 2021 and 2023. Kenai coach Dan Verkuilen said that last year’s loss was a valuable lesson. The Kardinals (17-2-1), he said, always knew they could do it — that they were going to do it.

“I’m a happy man,” he said. “They came on fire and took care of business.”

Verkuilen said it was a great season, special for the opportunity to see his athletes grow in and out of their sport; to win the championship; and to coach his daughter, Kylee, a senior who graduated earlier this month.

He said that after 25 years with the soccer program, he’s retiring this year — that the title match was his last game.

“Every year has been a gift, and I praise the Lord for them,” he said. “Having your daughter be a major player in your game and being able to be proud of her — all the girls — it’s been a wonderful road.”

Next year will see significant changes for JDHS’ soccer teams — and all others at the school — since students from Thunder Mountain High School will be consolidated into JDHS, and the Crimson Bears will be placed in Division I competition.

“Certainly on paper it’s probably going to mean a little more travel for us,” said Dusenberry, who will return as the girls soccer coach for JDHS. “But it also probably means a little more variety and opponents for our fans to see here.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306. Jacob Dye of the Peninsula Clarion contributed to this story.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Elliot Welch moves with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Elliot Welch moves with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Xavier Melancon moves with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Xavier Melancon moves with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Cadence Plummer moves with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Cadence Plummer moves with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Cerys Hudson and Lola Hines move with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Cerys Hudson and Lola Hines move with the ball during the ASAA Soccer Division II State Championships at Veterans Memorial Field in Wasilla on Saturday, May 25. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

More in Sports

Trout Unlimited's Matt Boline holds a container with coho fry for official documentation of anadromous fish use in an unnamed creek in the vicinity of Juneau. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Survey says…

Our floatplane cleared the notch in the snowy ridge then turned slightly… Continue reading

Juneau’s PJ Foy, shown winning the 2023 100 yard butterfly in 48.27 for Thunder Mountain High School during the ASAA state championships at the Dimond Park Aquatics Center on Nov. 4, 2023, qualified for the 2024 June Olympic Team Trials by swimming a 100 long course meters butterfly in a personal best 53.44 on March 16, 2024, at the Speedo Sectionals in Federal Way, Washington. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire file photo)
Alaskans secure spots at 2024 Olympics; Juneau swimmer PJ Foy will try for his spot on Friday

TMHS graduate seeking to qualify in 100-meter butterfly at U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

At least one female wood duck has invented a novel feeding technique. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Wood ducks, redstarts, yellowlegs and flowers

Mid-June, and a few days ago we saw a wood duck with… Continue reading

Competitors in the AlaskAcross 2024 race prepare to depart from Eagle Summit at 10 a.m. on June 8, 2024. From left are Bruno Grunau, Mark Ross, Forest Wagner, Mike Fisher, Sarah Hurkett, Clinton Brown, Tracie Curry and Curtis Henry. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Journey through a sub-Arctic summer night

“You guys are the result of thousands of years of selection,” Fran… Continue reading

Barn swallows firmly attach their nests to walls, so they support the weight of nestlings and visiting adults.  (Photo by Bob Amrstrong)
On the Trails: Spring to summer

Spring temperatures were cool this year, but the lengthening days gave birds… Continue reading

In the spirit of Dolly Parton’s country music roots, race participant Mendenhall River Community School Principal Eric Filardi runs in costume with young Lucy Vogel wearing heart-shaped sunglasses as they enjoy the sunny Saturday weather on the Airport Dike Trail race course. About 85 runners participated, many wearing pearls and pink hats provided at the starting tent. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Busting out the pink and pearls at the first Dolly Dash

Dolly Parton-inspired fun run raises funds for free books for kids.

A cruise ship makes its way through early morning fog last summer. The passengers who have been arriving lately have not been experiencing similar tranquility. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Racing the weather

Daylight is unstoppable this time of year. Not like up in the… Continue reading

People often use sea ice, as seen here off Alaska’s northern coast outside the town of Utqiagvik, for travelling. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Did sea ice help populate the Americas?

Human footprints preserved in mud at White Sands National Park in New… Continue reading

Brown-headed cowbirds are professional egg-dumpers, always parasitizing the nests of other species. (CC BY 2.0 public domain photo).
On the Trails: Egg dumping behavior

Egg-dumping refers to the behavior of a female who puts her eggs… Continue reading

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s Landon Simonson is greeted at home after hitting a grand slam on Friday during the Division I Alaska School Activities Association Baseball State Championships in Anchorage. (Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report)
JDHS baseball, TMHS softball teams make it to final day of state tournaments

Crimson Bears play for consolation title after grand slam win Friday; Falcons still in title hunt

Members of the Thunder Mountain High School softball team pose for a shot following their 18-0 victory against North Pole High School on Friday during the Division II Alaska School Activities Association Softball State Championships in Fairbanks. (Thunder Mountain Softball photo)
Final flight of the TMHS Falcons ends with 6-4 loss on final day of state softball tournament

“It’s been a fun ride,” coach says as team wins conference title, goes 29-12 during its final season.

Juneau’s Nate Fick leaps to make a catch while another Eagle River run scores during the opening game Thursday of the Division I Alaska School Activities Association Baseball State Championships. (Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report)
Crimson Bears finish sixth at state baseball tournament, coach calls season promising for young team

JDHS loses to Chugiak in consolation finale; scenarios for next season expand due to TMHS merger.