Juneau boys, girls soccer squads to open in Ketchikan

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2003

Many local residents may have grumbled about shoveling their driveway or brushing off their car after Monday's burst of snow.

The Juneau-Douglas High School soccer squads had to clear an entire field.

While a touch of winter still hangs in the air, the Crimson Bear boys and girls for two weeks now have been gearing up in preparation for their season-opening games this weekend in Ketchikan.

And while this week's snowfall changed the complexion of practice a little, the teams were able to get in a good week of training on the turf at Adair-Kennedy Field last week, when warmer temperatures prevailed.

"We had a good week of practice," boys coach Gary Lehnhart said earlier this week. "And it was spring break, so we had long practices."

"Everyone is excited to finally be playing," girls coach Sandi Wagner said.

Both Juneau teams will play a pair of games against their Kayhi counterparts - one on Friday and one on Saturday. These early-season games carry a lot of weight; since Juneau and Ketchikan are the only two teams in Southeast, the winner of the season's four-game series earns a berth in the state tournament in May.

Lehnhart said this season's Juneau boys squad is older than last year - with 16 seniors - but will have to work to overcome the loss of many experienced players from last year's team. Among the players from last season's state runner-up team to graduate was two-time Gatorade state player of the year Robert Lossett, who is a freshman midfielder at the University of Charlotte.

In last season's four games against Ketchikan, Juneau posted three convincing wins. But during one game in Juneau, Kayhi goalie Jon Demmert made a series of spectacular saves to force a 1-1 tie.

"They've been getting better every year, and that's good for us," Lehnhart said of Ketchikan. "In soccer, since the scores are so low, a game can turn on a goal."

The Crimson Bear boys will follow up the Kayhi trip with their annual journey to play teams in Spokane, Wash., next week. The boys' first home games of the season will be against Homer on April 18-19; a full story on this year's boys squad will run prior to that series.

The Juneau girls lost just five seniors from last year's team, and are looking to build on last season's third-place finish at the state tourney.

"I'm impressed with how they are playing so far," Wagner said. "The kids from last year are starting from where they left off, and the freshmen are fitting in well."

"We have really strong underclassmen (and a) strong set of returners, a good base to build on," senior Callan Janowiec said.

The Crimson Bear girls shut out the Kings in all four games last season. But given the postseason implications they, like the boys, are not taking this weekend's games lightly.

"They are going to get better each year," senior Liza Slotnick said of Kayhi.

The Juneau girls will follow up their Ketchikan trip with the season's first home games on April 11 and 12 against Colony. A full season preview story will appear prior to those games.

For Ketchikan, the development of the Kings' soccer program continues.

Girls coach Kay Jones said this year's squad is young, with just four returning seniors and seven returning players overall. But a new middle-school program has contributed some young players, and several upperclassman athletes without prior soccer experience has decided to give the sport a try.

On offense, seniors Anne Elliott and Sarah Brandt-Erichsen will be back to lead the attack.

"They have a pivotal triangle going on," Jones said. "We lost one of the corners (to graduation), so we're moving one of our sophomores up, Elizabeth Harpold."

Heading up the defense will be senior Darby Piercy and junior goalkeeper Emily Willett.

Kayhi boys coach Wayne Kinunen has about seven seniors returning this season. Demmert returns in goal, and defenseman Taylor Jones and midfielder Josh Schultz will also be among the Kings' veteran leaders this season.

Also expected to make contributions are a pair of foreign exchange students - Annibel Hernandez from Mexico and Jens Jorgenson from Denmark.

"We have a record number of kids out," Kinunen said. "We have a JV team, which is the first time we've done that."

This weekend may mark one of the last times Juneau visits Ketchikan's infamous soccer field, which is a converted dirt baseball field reminiscent of Juneau's Adair-Kennedy Field before its artificial turf was installed several years ago. Jones and Kinunen said a new track-soccer field complex is in the works at the site of a new elementary school south of Ketchikan's downtown.

Andrew Krueger can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com.

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