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Bears take aim at 2nd straight title

Posted: May 24, 2011 - 9:25pm
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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Juneau-Douglas’ Max Smith, left, battles for possession of the ball during an early season match against South Anchorage at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.

The Juneau-Douglas boys’ soccer team has made itself a fixture on the state championship stage, playing in the title game nine of the last 11 years the ASAA has sanctioned the event.

While the Crimson Bears surely want to make it 10 of the last 12, the most important number on their minds at this point is two, as in two straight state championships.

Juneau-Douglas drew the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament and will face No. 7 Colony in opening-round play at Dimond High School at 1 p.m. on Thursday.

Considering the Bears lost but one game in the state of Alaska and recently beat No. 1-ranked Dimond in a road trip north, JDHS could easily have been selected as the top seed.

But coach Gary Lehnhart said there are more important things to worry about.

“You know, I didn’t really care when it got right down to it. When you start caring, it tends to get in the way,” he said of tournament’s seeding process. “Then you’re either too happy or too sad when you get placed. In the past, I’ve seen teams and coaches that whine about the fairness of the seeding, then the next thing you know, that team loses a game they shouldn’t have lost.”

The Bears’ main goal as the regular season winded down was simple: play good soccer and keep players off the injured list.

“We wanted to be playing well, and we did. We wanted to be healthy, and we are,” Lehnhart said. “And we didn’t get any red cards, so we’re not going to be missing anybody.”

Juneau-Douglas has yet to square off with Colony this year, but in last season’s state tournament in Juneau, the Bears defeated the Knights in a double-overtime thriller in the second round on their way to the state title.

So there is a bit of recent history between the two in a championship setting, but JDHS is the favorite to advance to the second round, where it could see one of this year’s more surprising teams.

“Colony is perennially one of the top teams in the state, and you can’t overlook that despite them graduating some guys,” Lehnhart said. “But the one team I’ve been hearing a lot about, which is a little unusual, is Grace Christian.

“From what I’m hearing, this is their best team ever and they’re looking to make a run,” he continued. “But if we’re fortunate enough to get past Colony, whoever it is in the second round (Grace Christian or West Valley) will be a good challenge.”

The Bears beat the Lynx in the championship game last season on Juneau-Douglas’ home turf. If this year’s tournament plays out the way the seeds dictate, the crimson and black will once again play Dimond for all the marbles.

But in a moment of perfect irony, if the two sides are to meet again, the match would be played at Dimond High School.

“We were at home last year and I think it was a big advantage to get to play in front of our home crowd, so they’ve got to be thrilled,” Lehnhart said. “But if we’re fortunate to get that far and to face Dimond in the final at their place, I think it would be a nice turnabout, fair play kind of thing.

“Both of us have a lot of work to do before that happens. But if it does happen, I think it would be a little bit ironic.”

No. 2 Juneau-Douglas begins its title defense against No. 7 Colony at 1 p.m. today at Dimond High School in the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2011 State Soccer Championships.

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