The Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team kicked off their season with the usual week-long trip to Spokane, Wash. last week, netting a tie and a pair of losses.
The trip was initially scheduled to include four games, but the second game of the week was canceled due to a familiar problem to the team - rain.
"We haven't even been outside to practice yet," JDHS head coach Gary Lehnhart said. "Lining up (in the first game) against University was our first time with 11 on the field. The indoor center we have is great, but the most we can go is six-on-six in there. That made this trip even more important for us."
The Crimson Bears fell behind 1-0 by half-time in that opening game against University High School. Ky Clark's goal early in the second half knotted the score, with the assist going to Aaron Badilla. The JDHS defense slipped just a minute later, surrendering the go-ahead goal and then allowing University to rack up three more in the next 10 minutes. University went on to win 5-1. University, along with the other teams JDHS played, are all from the Spokane area.
"We just kind of lost our composure after that (go-ahead) goal," Lehnhart said. "It was one we should have stopped and our defense really just collapsed after we let it go."
After having the second game of the week rained out, the Bears jumped ahead early against East Valley High School. Rhett Bennett's goal in the opening minutes came off an assist from Vicente Alinson and put JDHS up 1-0 at half-time. East Valley salvaged a tie with a goal of their own 20 minutes into the second half. The score stayed tied through two overtime periods. The coaches set up an impromptu shootout to decide the winner.
"They made all five of their shots and we missed one and lost the shootout," Lehnhart said. "(A shootout) isn't something you normally do in high school, but since it was a friendly we decided to do it. The kids really liked it."
The final game of the trip was Saturday, with JDHS playing their hosts and the team Lehnhart helped coach more than a decade ago - Mead Senior High School. The favorites to win their local league, Mead pulled the Bears into a defensive grind early. Max Smith's goal eventually bumped JDHS to a 1-0 lead at half-time and the score held until the final minutes of the game. With four minutes to play, Mead tied the score and, like in the University game days earlier, the wheels came off the defense. Mead piled on three more goals in the closing minutes to take the 4-1 victory.
During the trip, the team also got a chance to observe JDHS grad and last season's Gatorade Player of the Year Colin Flynn practicing with his Gonzaga University teammates.
"That was a good part for the kids, too," Lehnhart said. "Watching people at the upper level practice lets them see how focused they are, how physical and competitive college practices are. I think just watching that should help them down the road."
The Crimson Bears are scheduled to host Ketchikan High School to open their in-state season next weekend, but Lehnhart expects the game to eventually be rescheduled to a drier date. If the games are moved, JDHS will open their season April 24 against Bartlett High School in the opening round of the newly-renamed Don Ashton Memorial Tournament. The boys and girls tournament was previously known as the Spring Fever Tournament before long-time program supporter Ashton passed away earlier this year.