The Juneau-Douglas boys’ and girls’ soccer teams tested their mettle in Anchorage last week against some of the top competition in the state of Alaska.
Now the Bears know what they’re capable of doing.
The girls went 2-2 on their road trip, while the boys took three of four matches. Both teams played the same schools: Wasilla, Chugiak, Dimond and West Anchorage.
It’s been a long two weeks for a girls’ team that has played a lot of games recently, but coach Matt Dusenberry said this road trip gave his side confidence going forward.
“I feel pretty good about how we should be able to compete come state tournament time,” he said. “If you take a step back from these four games in four days, which is a lot, we’ve played nine games in 13 days. That’s a lot of soccer, a lot to ask of the kids to play that much.
“There hasn’t been much time to rest.”
The girls opened up their trip with a 2-0 win over Wasilla before falling to Chugiak and Dimond 2-1 and 3-1, respectively. The Bears were able to pull out a 2-0 win over West to get out of Anchorage on a high note.
Dusenberry said despite the two losses, his group feels it can compete well against the same sides if they are to play again somewhere down the road.
“I think some of the mistakes were our mistakes, so I don’t feel like we were outplayed, whatsoever,” he said. “I think both teams (Chugiak and Dimond) were physical teams, and I don’t think we handled it as best we could.”
Dusenberry said intensity might have been lacking in the two losses, but he was happy with the way the Bears defended during the trip. He also said the girls didn’t control the ball the way he had hoped, and it’s difficult to win when the other team wins the possession battle.
“One thing we’ve proven this season, we definitely know how to defend,” he said. “We fought really hard to win the ball back often in that game, but then we gave it back to them which makes it more difficult.”
Overall, however, Dusenberry said the trip was good for the team in preparation for the state tournament. He said with all the games the girls have played recently he can’t ask for too much more.
“Some of these players played quite a bit in four games in four days,” Dusenberry said. “We were asking a lot of Sarah Tarver and Daffodil Alinson in the middle, and they played well. And the back line also did a good job.”
He also said to get the last win was especially rewarding.
“That last game, after playing that many games, was not easy,” Dusenberry said. “To pull out the win and keep it at zero was quite impressive.
“You could see they were pushing themselves just to be able to compete, because they were just so tired.”
As for the boys, coach Gary Lehnhart said theirs was a successful trip despite the one loss.
But something happened to the Bears that hadn’t happened in 11 consecutive matches prior to Wednesday’s against Wasilla. Juneau-Douglas was scored upon. JDHS topped Wasilla 3-1 in the road trip’s opener before falling to Chugiak 1-0, the side’s first defeat since April 8.
But the Bears recovered with a convincing 4-2 win against Dimond, last year’s state runner-up, and a 6-0 rout of West.
“I think this trip revealed we’re as good as anybody else, but we certainly aren’t dominant enough that we don’t have to get better over the next couple of weeks,” Lehnhart said. “We had some things that were exploited. We gave up a few goals and we’re not used to doing that.
“And I think for some of our players the game was faster than it has been in the last couple of weeks.”
The boys got started early against Wasilla as Max Smith headed in a Jackson Lehnhart feed from the side in the opening moments of the match. The Bears got two more goals from Rhett Bennett and Sage Thibodeau shortly thereafter, but the Warriors were able to score when Bears keeper Taylor Lehnhart slipped, opening the net to the attack. Still, JDHS cruised to the 3-1 win from there.
Gary Lehnhart said the team really struggled offensively as the Bears were shut out by Chugiak in the second game. Once again, a common trend reared its ugly head for JDHS as the team created plenty of opportunities to score but couldn’t put the ball away.
“We had many, many chances (to score),” Gary Lehnhart said. “Chugiak’s defense was impressive, though. I don’t know how many times they cleared the ball even after the goalie had been beaten.”
Gary Lehnhart said the reason for this loss was a combination of the team’s recent inability to score on top of strong play from Chugiak’s defense.
“That seems to be our struggle right now. We’re putting up a lot of opportunities, so it isn’t that we’re not getting chances, but we’re not very efficient on our chances.
“I think we don’t have a sense of urgency about it all, and I think that’s displaying itself.”
As for concerns going forward, Gary Lehnhart said it’s easier to fix the scoring problem when chances are being created. It’s much more difficult to correct these issues if the team isn’t creating opportunities at all.
“We’re not finishing, and we need to finish better if we’re going to be able to beat the best at the end of the season,” he said. “On the other hand, the bigger problem would be creating opportunities, because that’s a much harder fix.
“We’re certainly creating opportunities, so I feel good about that.”
In a rematch of last year’s championship game, the Bears faced a 2-0 deficit at the half before exploding for four goals after the break to defeat Dimond, a team Gary Lehnhart called one of the top teams in the state. Smith, Bennett, Jackson Lehnart and Andy Lawson accounted for the scoring in the contest.
The final match against West was a blowout, with Lawson and Bennett getting two goals apiece. Jackson Lehnhart got his second goal of the road trip and Johnny Joyce scored his first.
Much like their female counterparts, the boys have had quite a few games as of late and are looking forward to getting some time to work on things.
“It’ll be nice the next two weeks to get back to the practice field and work on our game a little bit,” Gary Lehnhart said.
Smith was once again impressive for the Bears, tallying two goals and five assists on the road trip. That gives him 14 assists on the season, a new Juneau-Douglas single-season record. Jackson Lehnhart notched four assists in four games on top of his two scores, and Gary Lehnhart said he was quite dangerous for the Bears’ offensive attack.
The Juneau-Douglas girls don’t play until their May 17 tilt with Thunder Mountain, and the boys will face the Falcons today at 6:45 p.m. at Thunder Mountain High School.