Despite nearly a complete turnover from its squad that won last year's state championship, the Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team produced the same result - a win - in its opener on Wednesday.
The Crimson Bears recovered from a costly defensive blunder early in the second half and rallied to claim a 2-1 victory over the University High School Titans in Spokane, Wash.
"It was more than I could hope for," said Juneau coach Gary Lehnhart, whose teams have reached the last four state championship games and claimed two titles. "I was really pleased. We made some mistakes, but we're young."
Juneau only has one starter back from the 11 that began last season, and senior Alex Newton was injured most of the season. Two other players - sophomore Dylan Ashe and senior Kiel Urata - were reserves at the beginning of the season, but did see lots of action at the end, with Ashe scoring the only goal in last year's state championship victory over Service.
"I started three sophomores (Ashe, Jamaal Bailey and goalkeeper Matt Walton) and I haven't done that in a long time," Lehnhart said. "We're very, very young."
Juneau and University played a scoreless first half on Wednesday, although the Crimson Bears nearly gave up a goal when a bad back-pass to Walton was intercepted by a Titan player who took a shot at the net while Walton was pulled out of position. But junior defender Cheyenne Sanchez was able to run the shot down and clear it before the ball went into the net.
Also, Bailey was injured in a first-half collision, suffering a mild concussion that may keep him out of today's game against the Ferris Saxons.
In the second half, another mistake did cost Juneau a goal as junior defender Ian Brinkman tried to make a pass from midfield back to Walton and University's Bryan Hendricks was able to intercept the pass and score an unassisted goal in the game's 53rd minute.
Juneau answered five minutes later, tying the game when Brinkman's throw-in bounced in the goal box and senior Cameron Mitchell was able to head it into the net to tie the game at one-all.
In the 73rd minute, Juneau scored the game-winner when Mitchell made a pass to senior Nathan Schroeder, who beat two defenders and then the University goalkeeper when he came off his line.
The Crimson Bears play Ferris today in the second game of their four-game trip to Spokane, which is Juneau's annual season-opening series. Juneau plays Mount Spokane on Friday and Mead on Saturday.
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