The Juneau-Douglas High School girl’s soccer team is heading south; not in the negative connotation, but as in California south with warm weather and hard competition.
JDHS will play schools from Granite Bay, Franklin and Vacaville, Calf., this weekend in preseason matches.
Smart, well coached and athletic, even with the graduation of three-time all state tournament selection Sarah Tarver, the Crimson Bears return a talent-laden team that will focus on the attack.
“We lost a few kids to graduation but we also have a large senior class back,” JDHS coach Matthew Dusenberry said. “Sure it is tough to lose a Division-I player like Tarver, but we had a lot of kids waiting in the wings who got minutes last year.”
Graduates Tarver (Northern Arizona), Aubrey Briscoe (Peninsula College), Kelsey Blacks (North Idaho College) and Pia Wahto (Pacific Lutheran) are playing or training with their college teams. Sarah Donohoe (U of Portland) is on her college rowing team. Lia Domke (Canada), Melissa Skan (MIT), and Daffodil Alinson (Washington State) Caitlin DeRocher (Boise St) and May Suson (WSU) are focusing on academics.
While that roll call seems impressive, it is even more incredible to think of the number of seniors the Crimson Bears have reloaded with and how that states to the soccer programs in the capital city.
JDHS has represented southeast well at the state soccer championships, finishing third or higher the past nine seasons. The team placed second in 2009, and third in 2010. The Crimson Bears finished with a 15-5-2 record last year and placed third at the state venue, winning the GPA (grade point average) award with a 3.77.
Tarver, Solana Ashe and Dorothy Brent were all tournament selections last season; Ashe, a midfielder, and Brent, a four-year starter, return although Brent will miss most of the season with a personal medical issue that requires time away from Juneau. Brent’s uniform number 16, a number she wore in youth leagues, will not be issued to another player.
“They are a strong group of girls that can achieve anything,” Brent said of her teammates. “And if Matt (coach Dusenberry) would let them open up a can of whoop-(---) I believe that they would be unstoppable.”
Ashe has also been a starter the past three seasons and will be a leader on the pitch.
Other returning seniors include Rebekah Badilla (forward, midfield), Sidney Browning (midfield), Kiera Clark (midfield), Cassidy Davenport (defender, forward), Anna Gregovich (defender), Chrish Newell (midfield), Marlena Sloss (midfield), and Krista Thomson (defender).
Sloss and Gregovich are returning starters as is sophomore Bekka Ord (forward). Badilla and Newell played in the state championships last season. Browning traveled to California with the team last season and returns at full strength after an ankle injury limited playing time.
Ord and classmates Katie McKeown (midfield), Cheyenne Siverly (goal keeper), Mali Tamone (goal keeper, midfield), and Eliza Walker (midfield, defender) and freshman Tessa Smith (midfield, defender) will also join the seniors in California.
“We should still be in good shape this year,” Dusenberry said. “Every year you have to look at who you have and try to play to their strengths. We have made an adjustment to the formation we used last year for this year. Now we are just working through what it means to play that way.”
The current experience of the JDHS girls is in the offensive attack. They are lacking experience in the back line and at goalkeeper, but not talent. Siverly and Tamone will be able to be more comfortable in that position as the season progresses.
The Crimson Bears will be asking players to step into positions that they did not necessarily play in past seasons.
As for spring soccer in California the trip serves a purpose. Soccer in Anchorage and Fairbanks has fields still covered in snow and the Washington State girl’s season ends in the fall. California offers an affordable advance travel purchase and the strongest high school soccer competition in the nation. Last year’s opponent Davis was ranked third in the nation.
“Granite Falls will be great competition,” Dusenberry said. “We played them two years ago and it ended in a tie. Davis was just a great side and it is good to expose the girls to something a little quicker and a bit faster than what we are used to.”