Juneau-Douglas High School senior Robert Lossett has been named Gatorade Alaska High School Soccer Player of the Year, the second consecutive year the honor has gone to a Crimson Bear.
"I was pretty surprised," said Lossett, a midfielder/forward for the defending state champion Crimson Bears. "I knew I was in the running, but I knew there were some good guys up in Anchorage. I knew there were guys from West, us, Dimond and Service who could have won. I've played with all those guys."
"Rob's just being modest," Juneau boys soccer coach Gary Lehnhart said. "He and Justin (Dorn) were both clear-cut winners when the coaches did their voting. It was the year before when there was some controversy."
Dorn was Juneau's first soccer player to win a Gatorade Player of the Year Award. Dorn was a redshirt freshman this fall at Gonzaga University and didn't see any action as the Bulldogs made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
The only other athletes from JDHS to win the state Gatorade Player of the Year award for their sport were girls basketball player Meagan Gleason in 1997 and boys basketball player Carlos Boozer in 1999. Gleason played college basketball for Davidson College in North Carolina, and Boozer plays for Duke University.
Having JDHS players win the award for two straight years shows how far Juneau's soccer program has come in recent years, Lossett said. Lossett scored the game's only goal as the Juneau boys won their first state championship 1-0 over Dimond last May. In 2000, the Crimson Bears reached the inaugural state championship game before losing 3-2 to Colony.
"We're just getting better," Lossett said. "The 12-year-olds are better than we were. And having guys like Justin and me around, we can teach the younger guys. And we can give the kids something to shoot for, like a state championship."
"One of the things that makes Robert stand out is he makes the people around him better," Lehnhart said. "When I watch him in intramurals you can really learn why kids do well. With some kids, in intramurals you see them give up if they don't get on a good team. But with Robert you can see him take on that challenge and he gets everyone involved. I had some of the younger ODP (Olympic Development Program) players with me once, and they were picking up on it. They said he's talking and making the other players around him better."
Two of Lossett's teammates agreed with Lehnhart's assessment about Lossett's play.
"You can see the difference with the younger kids," senior forward Jon Rue said. "A lot of that is due to Rob and the way he's elevated their play. Being from Juneau, I don't think those guys in Anchorage think we can play. But Justin and Rob both worked really hard and both had the ability to control the game's tempo."
"I was the one who got him into it (soccer)," senior goalkeeper Zuriel "Z" Ebron said. "The whole program has improved so much and lot of that has to do with coaching. Rob has a lot more experience than some of us and he travels to Georgia for camps. Every time I take a goal kick, I'm looking for Robert. He's my target."
Lossett scored 12 goals and had seven assists last spring. In 2000, Lossett scored five goals and had six assists. He also played for Team Alaska's indoor soccer team in the Arctic Winter Games. Lehnhart said he couldn't find Lossett's stats from 1999, Lossett's freshman year.
Alaska is one of the few states that plays its soccer season in the spring, which means the players who earn the award haven't played their senior seasons yet. Lossett said he doesn't think there will be any extra pressure on him this spring when he competes as the reigning Player of the Year.
"I'm glad I got the award and I'll accept it, but it's not going to take away what I need to do as a player," Lossett said. "The goals will come and go, it's the team that will always be there. I know what I need to do to make the team better, and there are a lot of seniors on the team who can excel in this thing if I don't."
Lossett hopes to play college soccer next year at the NCAA Division I level, but figures he'll probably have to be a walk-on player his first season. He said he just sent applications to Gonzaga, Michigan, Clemson, California State-Sacramento and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with the hopes he might be able to land a spot with one of their teams. Lossett carries a 3.3 GPA, so he should qualify for most schools.
"I've wanted to play Division I soccer since back in middle school," Lossett said.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he ended up at Gonzaga," Lehnhart said. "One of his problems has been his fitness, and he's starting to get that sorted out over the past few months. His fitness level has really improved. His job in college will be as a distributor, and he's one of the reasons Justin has the (state's) scoring record (28 goals and six assists in 2000). Rob wants to play Division I, but there aren't a lot of opportunities in Division I for guys."
As a state winner, Lossett will compete on a regional level to be one of the finalists for the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award. The award recognizes athletic ability and academic and team leadership qualities.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.