The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé girls soccer team clinched a three-peat at the state tournament this weekend, amid a flurry of sports action that also saw the Thunder Mountain High School boys soccer team take first place at the state tourney and the TMHS girls team and the JDHS boys soccer teams grab the third-place ring.
The weekend also brought four track and field medals home to Juneau and saw both high school baseball and softball teams advance to regional contests.
JDHS girls soccer
Capping a perfect season, the Crimson Bears bested the Soldotna Stars 5-1 to win the Division II title. In the process, they beat their own defensive record, conceding only four goals for the season. The feat resulted in a new state — and a new school record — which previously stood at five conceded goals for the season.
“Going into the tourney, we felt good,” said JDHS coach Matt Dusenberry in a phone interview Monday.
He noted that the team benefited from playing cross-town rival TMHS and that a road trip to the Kenai Peninsula earlier this season gave them perspective on the team’s prospects.
“We felt good with how we were playing,” he said. “We had a pretty good shot.”
The Crimson Bears are graduating eight seniors this spring, seven of whom were at the state final game in 2018 and 2019. Dusenberry said that had COVID-19 not derailed the 2020 season, the team might have been at the state tournament last year, too.
“You have to wonder if these seniors could have won four years in a row,” Dusenberry said. “It’s awesome to see seniors put it all together and really shine. Not just winning but really playing their best.”
Dusenberry said senior Taylor Bentley made a considerable contribution to the team’s success this season, particularly in the state finals.
“She was phenomenal,” he said. “What a way to end her senior year. She scored every game.”
With 15 juniors coming back for next season, Dusenberry said the team’s future looks bright.
A taste of normalcy
Dusenberry said the girls were happy to play after the 2020 season was canceled. He noted that the goal of winning the state tournament was not a discussion point during the season as the team was happy to be back on the pitch.
“Last year, we had three practices before the season got canceled completely. That certainly changed the team’s perspective. They take what comes and make the most of it with whatever happens,” he said.
Dusenberry said that the team’s trip to Anchorage to compete in the finals offered a glimpse of normalcy that their earlier road trip could not deliver.
“We got to go to restaurants and the mall because vaccination rates are higher. It was a nice ending to the season, as it seemed closer to normal,” he said, noting that during the team’s earlier trip, COVID protocols required them to shun restaurants in favor of grocery stores and to stay in the hotel when not playing.
Thunder Mountain girls finish third
With a season record of four wins and five losses, the TMHS girls team secured the state’s third-place finish at the state tournament.
“I think this was an incredibly successful season,” said coach John Newell in a team update he shared with the Empire.
“I also love the fact that we were a little disappointed we finished third. A few years ago, finishing third at state seemed like an impossible goal.”
In addition to a top-three finish for the season, the TMHS team won the academic award for earning the highest GPA in the state.
“I am extremely proud of the girls for that,” Newell said.
Newell also reflected on the way that COVID had shaped this year’s soccer season.
“During a pandemic, we were able to not only play and finish a season, but we were also able to travel to both Ketchikan with our entire team and Anchorage with our varsity. That in itself was a major accomplishment,” he said.
Throughout the season, the team scored 21 goals and gave up 13. However, all four victories were shutouts.
“This follows along with my theory that if the other team doesn’t score, you can’t lose the game,” Newell said.
• Contact reporter Dana Zigmund at email@example.com or 907-308-4891.