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JDHS plays with one number in mind

Posted: May 24, 2011 - 9:25pm
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Taylor Lehnhart
Taylor Lehnhart

Zero.

It’s what the Juneau-Douglas boys’ soccer team yells before each half of soccer. Most teams have their pre-game chants and cheers, but the Crimson Bears need only one word.

“It’s about not letting anything in — no goals scored,” senior captain Peter Jorgensen said.

And he means it. The defending state champs have not been scored on once at home this season. They haven’t been scored on once in conference play, for that matter. In fact, the only four goals they’ve allowed in the state of Alaska all season came during a recent trip north to Anchorage, and this defense hasn’t forgotten the day its streak of 11 straight clean sheets ended.

“I remember saying after we beat Wasilla 3-1, ‘This is the most upset I’ve ever been after a win,’” Jorgensen said. “It goes back to what Gary (Lehnhart) preaches. If you get beat, take it personally. And that’s really how I try to play.

“I hate being scored on. I hate seeing the ball go into our own net,” he continued. “And I definitely have not forgotten the times we’ve been scored on, and it’s a goal to not let it happen again.”

So what’s the first word that comes to mind when an opponent scores?

“It’s a four-letter word,” Jorgensen quipped, electing not to use it in a recorded interview.

For such a light-hearted group of kids, these guys are all business once they step on the pitch.

“All these games we’ve played this year have given us a chance to work on our game, and work toward what ‘zero’ really means to us,” senior defender Adam Nesheim said. “They’ve all been practice for us to get to our full potential so we’re ready for state.”

And this team is as ready as it’ll ever be. The skill is there, the preparation is there and, most importantly, they know exactly what they’re capable of accomplishing.

While the defense operates as the sum of its parts, there is just one player who is almost always the last line of defense: the keeper.

“I’m confident they’ll hold (the opposition) from getting off too many shots. Our offense has a lot to do with that,” senior goalkeeper Taylor Lehnhart said. “They’ve really been able to possess the ball well and keep it away from the other players. I have confidence in our whole team.”

Nesheim echoed Taylor Lehnhart’s sentiment, saying the offense’s effectiveness is just as important to the defense as the back line.

“We have some fantastic players on our offense. We have speed and we have people who know how to tackle the ball and keep the ball,” Nesheim said. “That works toward the defense’s advantage in keeping the ball away from us, which keeps us fresh.

“Through possession, we can really lock it down.”

While Jorgensen, Nesheim and Lehnart are the major cogs on the defensive end, the back line has depth that makes this group one of the best — if not the best — in the state.

“Colin (Zheng) is a really hard worker, Ben (Tamone) is a big body and Adam is faster than anyone running at him,” Jorgensen said. “So it’s easy to be confident, especially when we go as long as we did without being scored on.”

With all the time spent together over the years, the defense’s cohesiveness is easy to see. Nesheim said they approach every game as a team, not as individuals.

“There’s never a point in which it’s one single person’s fault for a goal. I think it’s multiple people’s, and even the team’s fault,” he said. “When you’re a goalkeeper, (an opponent’s shot) is a sudden thing. It’s the defense’s job to tell them where and when the shot’s coming.”

And Taylor Lehnart, for one, really appreciates that as the team’s main keeper.

“It’s good to have players back there who are confident in you, and if you make a mistake they have your back,” he said. “There have been plenty of times where players have kicked the ball off the line and saved my back.

“It’s good that we have that confidence in each other.”

Nesheim added it’s really the responsibility of the back line and the rest of the team to keep their keeper aware.

“We want to make it to where he stays safe and has a chance to go out and get the ball,” he said. “We have the ability to survey the whole field and look for any dangerous opportunities, as well as protect our keeper at all times.”

It’s clear the defense of the Crimson Bears knows its role, now it’s up to the team as a whole to go out and execute at the state tournament. While the goal is to repeat as champs, Taylor Lehnhart said it would be a mistake to take any team lightly.

“We have to take it one game at a time. We don’t want to think ahead and look past a team,” he said. “At the state championship level, all teams are equal. It’s a matter of keeping our heads in the game, keep pushing and keep our work ethic up.”

So as this team walked off the practice field for the last time before its seniors prepared for graduation ceremonies, Jorgensen made clear the Bears’ aspirations.

“The expectations are win, and that’s it,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re going to, but with anything less, I think I speak for everyone when I say that would be a disappointment.

“We play to win.”

There’s been zero doubt about that from the very beginning.

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