The girls soccer teams of both Juneau high schools faced off across Adair-Kennedy Memorial Field Tuesday, as the Thunder Mountain girls played their first game of the season and Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé their third.
JDHS took the win handily, scoring 4-0 for a decisive victory.
“I thought it was going to be a pretty even match. All four of our matches were pretty close last year,” said JDHS girls’ coach Matt Dusenberry in a phone interview. “This is our third game. This was our first one at home.”
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That early-season experience, playing against Ketchikan, may have been a decisive factor, Dusenberry said.
“We came out and played our best – with nerves and it being our first game I felt the girls showed up and overcame a lot,” said TMHS coach Cindy Eriksen in an email. “We started with a strong passing game, which was great to see the efforts apply to the game.”
The JDHS team, returning Division 2 state champions, has players with a good deal of time on the field, some of whom have played varsity since freshman year, Dusenberry said.
“Having ten seniors in the starting lineups, there’s some experience there. Some are in different positions this year,” Dusenberry said. “We had a pretty good team in 2019 when they were freshmen and some were on varsity then. There were even more of them that were juniors that were on last year’s squad.”
Eriksen, who recently stepped into the head coach role, said the TMHS girls are finding their feet as the team shifts to accommodate new talent.
“This is an amazing group of young people and each player has shown growth in their own way. The nature of HS soccer bodes the loss of key players each year, which makes it interesting when you start a season,” Eriksen said. “You see who shows up, who has grown, and who begins to shine. We have our first game in the books and are looking forward to improving on our performance.”
For JDHS, it’s the joy of the game and eyes on the prize for the team which has dominated the D2 league since 2018, Dusenberry said.
“It was fun to watch them. You could see they were enjoying the game. That’s why we play, I hope,” Dusenberry said. “Hopefully they keep working hard and having fun. They know that it takes work and not all of it’s in their control. One of ‘em already said they want to be in the final if there’s an opportunity.”
That horizon is still a long way away, Dusenberry said, with more than a ten games left in the season, beginning with Homer here in Juneau on Saturday.
“We played Homer in the semi-finals last year. We’re aware of them. They’ve got some good athletes on their team and they gave us a little bit of a push in the game in the state tournament,” Dusenberry said. “Whether we want to or not, we’re going to have to have a target on our back. Other than the pandemic, we’ve won every title every year.”
A late-April tournament will give the girls the chance to square off against the large Anchorage-based high schools as well, Dusenberry said.
“Anchorage is always a big thing,” Dusenberry said. “We’re supposed to play Service and we’re supposed to play West. Those are supposed to be strong programs.”
Eriksen said she’s also optimistic for the season.
“This is a super well-rounded group of young women,” Eriksen said. “We’re hoping that this season will give them the tools they need to succeed on and off the field.”
• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or email@example.com.