Crimson Bears tip Kangs 2-1 in Don Ashe Spring Fever play

Tournament about the spirit of the game

In the scheme of things, Sunday’s Juneau-Douglas High School 2-1 boy’s soccer win over visiting Lake Washington (Kirkland, Wash.) was just another sunny day on the pitch.


Nothing mattered.

Not the athletes who challenged one another, the coaches who disagreed with a call or did not, the fans that watched.

Nothing mattered.

Not Crimson Bears sophomore Nick Stewart’s “skillful” goal in the second half that broke the 0-0 deadlock.

“I was running down by the end line,” Stewart said. “And Johnny (Joyce) was yelling for the ball so I tried to pass it to him. And it went in.”

Not JDHS senior goalie Max Lyons’ numerous acrobatic saves, nor senior Jackson Lehnhart’s goal that broke a 1-1 tie.

“The goal position is really about mental endurance,” Lyons said. “Just keeping focused no matter what happens. Not ignoring my mistakes but pushing them out of the way and staying focused on what I need to be doing.”

Nothing mattered.

Not the attacking Lake Washington Kangaroos that had outplayed the Crimson Bears in a practice a day earlier, not the JDHS forwards and midfielders that jostled with the Kangs’ defenders. Not the missed finishes on goal scoring chances that put the game in jeopardy for the Crimson Bears.

Nothing mattered... except the reason the game is played.

Don Ashe.

Longtime Douglas resident Ashe was a fixture in Juneau soccer and a booster and loving family man who passed too early on Jan. 31, 2009. Now, in his honor, the Don Ashe Spring Fever Tournament is played each season and a team from “down south” attends.

“Donnie was important,” JDHS coach Gary Lehnhart said. “He was one of the forefathers of soccer in Juneau, and in a lot of ways his spirit wasn’t just about the work put in, because there were a lot of people in the early days who raised money. But Don had an energy, especially about bringing people from down south to come play us. He was an ambassador. The minute people arrived, there he was, smiling and greeting them...”

Lehnhart explained to the visiting Lake Washington players, and his own, the story and reason behind the tournament; The fact that fund raising for Juneau soccer was integral in its development and travel, and that Don Ashe was always front and center in that endeavor and that this huge community effort continues today and donations made in Don’s honor help to bring teams to Juneau.

“He put a lot of energy into building soccer in this community,” Lehnhart said to both teams. “He was just one of those guys who every time you saw him he made you laugh. He had a good sense of humor. He was the last thing you would expect from a soccer player.”

Lehnhart described the vibrant play of Don’s sons’ Stefan and Dylan who played for Lehnhart. Dylan Ashe was the Gatorade Player of the Year one season, the best soccer player in the state, and played for Xavier University. Stefan has a Crimson Bears’ state title.

Lehnhart mentioned Don’s daughter Solana, a senior attacker on the Crimson Bears’ girls team and returning all-state tourney selection, who has such spirited play that it is an understatement when describing the speed and competitiveness she brings to the midfield.

“Growing up I remember watching my father spending countless hours on the phone,” Solana Ashe said of her father and the tournament. “Spring Fever Tournament (the name of the venue before Don’s passing) was his soccer highlight of the year, except the year Dylan scored the winning goal at state in 2002. Playing in this tournament has been an honor and for me it has been a great way to remember his support and contagious, cheerful spirit.”

Lehnhart told the Lake Washington players how the community missed Don and how the coaches like to give an award out each year in Don’s honor.

“The purpose of the award is too remind everybody who Don Ashe was in our minds,” Lehnhart told the dozens of faces, who had been manly portraits moments earlier on the pitch and were now attentive boys being taught a lesson of life. “This award is about the kinds of things Don Ashe stood for. If he were here you would all know who he was, he would have been talking to you guys... This award is for really good players who are also really good people. That is what Donnie was about, he was about excellence in both areas.”

On Sunday, sophomore Nick Stewart scored in the beginning of the second half when his pass went astray and the ball grew afraid of the daylight, seeking the comfort of the back of the goalie’s net; Crimson Bears’ junior teammate Jackson Lehnhart followed with a goal that opponents thought offside; and Lake Washington’s Kurosh Namini beat two defenders to make the tally 2-1 and put JDHS on the defensive.

But those things did not matter.

Nothing mattered...

Except the smile from Crimson Bears goalie Max Lyons and Kangs junior midfielder Jason Curlanis when their coaches announced them as the Don Ashe Spirit Award winners.

Lehnhart stated he gives the award as a four-year honor because, “It is not just about today’s game, it is about somebody who is consistent and that’s what Donnie was. It is about all four years in the classroom, on the field, leadership, and more than anything else being a really good teammate. That’s what Donnie was, as well as a good player, and Max Lyons is that as well.”

Nothing mattered on Sunday except Don Ashe and what he still stands for.

“I am really surprised and honored that Gary thinks that of me,” Lyons said. “I loved Don Ashe, so, yeah, this means a lot to me.”

The Crimson Bears girl’s soccer team and coach Matt Dusenberry gave the Don Ashe Spirit Award to senior Marlena Sloss. They asked Crimson Bears’ mainstay Solana Ashe for her input in the selection.

“I see a lot of my father’s spirit in her,” Ashe said of her teammate. “She is always really positive and encouraging. I am a lot more comfortable when she is with us.”

Continued Ashe, “Soccer was, is, a connection I had with my dad. It is a passion we shared, and something that brings us together.”


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