Not long after his team made history by winning the inaugural ASAA Division II girls soccer state championship, coach Matt Dusenberry asked just one favor of his players.
“Can we have a little more enthusiasm when they give us that trophy?” Dusenberry asked.
Juneau-Douglas High School — which had to wait for the conclusion of the boys championship to accept their hardware — defeated Grace Christian 3-0 on Saturday afternoon at Service High School in Anchorage.
As the team made its way off the field, there was surprisingly little jubilation. A smiling Nikki Box jumped up and down and hugged nearby Shaylin Cesar, who reciprocated with a smile of her own. But as a whole, the team acted as if the outcome of the game was a foregone conclusion.
It’s not hard to see why, either.
They hadn’t lost in over a month and 12 of their games this season were won by at least three goals. They finished the year 13-1-2 and hammered Palmer High School 7-0 in the semifinals to get to Saturday’s final.
The Grizzlies were not intimidated by the achievements of the Crimson Bears, though, and coach Jeff Schaezlein said his team was “100 percent confident” his team could keep up.
And up until sophomore Eva Goering zig zagged around three defenders and scored midway through the first half, it showed.
The Grizzlies played physical and shots were hard to come by for Goering, Malia Miller and sisters Michaela and Taylor Bentley.
“We’ve really come together at the end of the year here so we knew we could play with any team,” Schaezlein said.
Goering’s goal eased JDHS’ spirits, said Dusenberry. It showed on the field, too, as the squad started putting more shots on keeper Collen Gamez.
“I think we were feeling pretty good that we could keep it at zero for ourselves and all we had to do is at least put one in, give ourselves a chance,” Dusenberry said.
With eight minutes left in the half, Miller scored again for the Crimson Bears. She dribbled through the middle of the Grace’s defense before shooting the ball past Gamez. The play was set up by Taylor Bentley, who made eight assists in the two games leading up to the tournament — six of which went in Miller’s direction.
“We both have been playing with each other for a while now so I think we just connect very well,” Bentley said.
Cesar did her part, too, coming up with a big save on Grace’s Eveny Miller in the final 10 minutes of the second half.
Malia Miller put the game away just a few minutes later with another goal, this one from the top left corner of the penalty box.
Sure enough, when the team did finally accepted their championship trophy, there was a bit more excitement in the air.
Standing in the back row between the younger Bentley sister and Nicole Mannix, senior Marlena Romanoff grinned while holding up her state championship medal, still in a plastic case. Having sustained season-ending injuries in each of the past two seasons that kept her out of the tournament — she was happy to be back. One last time.
“It’s a pretty good way to top it off,” she said.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.