There's little chance that this season's Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team will be able to physically fill the big shoes of the eight departed seniors from last year state champion squad.
But what they lack in size, the 2005 Crimson Bears make up for in technical skills and talent as they try to defend their crown.
"We're a really small team, but we are a very technical team," senior co-captain Monica Daugherty said. "We don't have a lot of power, but we can maneuver well and pass well. Size isn't really in the cards for us, but we can work around that."
The young season continues this weekend as Juneau hosts Colony for a pair of home games at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. Game times are 7:30 p.m. tonight and Saturday. The Juneau junior varsity boys team will host the Ketchikan JV boys at 5:45 p.m. each evening.
Juneau opened its season last weekend at the Spring Fever tournament, where the Crimson Bears hosted - and beat - Cheyenne Central of Wyoming in a pair of games.
Those were Juneau's 17th and 18th straight victories, following up on last year's 16-0-0 effort that saw the Crimson Bears win their first-ever state championship.
But some of Juneau's top scorers and much of its height on defense graduated after winning the title, leaving a new group of players to carry the winning tradition.
"Last weekend, more than half the players were freshmen and sophomores," Juneau co-coach Colin Barton said. "Technically, they are very talented. But we are lacking in experience and lacking in size. We are better in skills than we were last year, but we do have this huge lack of experience. That's going to show. However, if we get it together, you never know what's going to happen."
The returning Crimson Bear veterans will try to mold the younger players into a cohesive unit. Several freshmen were part of the Juneau Xtratuffs club team that had success at the Alaska State Cup tournament the last few years.
"They're all really skilled players," Daugherty said of the freshmen. "It's just a matter of working with them and making sure they're comfortable with the team."
"We're basically a new team," said junior midfielder Jessy Post, another co-captain. "The leadership is there. We've just got to form and bond as a team. ...
"After the first two games, we shook everything off, and we seem less nervous."
Post and fellow junior co-captain Gretchen Dierking will anchor the midfield this season, and they'll be assisted by, among others, freshman Clarissa Suson and sophomores Jessica Waste, Audrey Wagner, Brittany Lehnhart and Dani Barr. Junior Rochele Rodman and freshman Carly Lehnhart will split between midfield and forward.
Senior Theresa Badilla leads Juneau's offensive attack, and she'll be joined by sophomore Sarah Christianson and freshman Margaret Sekona. Sekona scored two goals last weekend.
The defensive line includes seniors Daugherty and Lindsey Heumann, along with junior Erin Thompson, sophomores Talisa Rhea and Lindsey Kato, and freshman Kirsten Jorgensen.
Freshman Kayla Walton and senior Ida Gaustad - an exchange student from Norway - will split time in goal.
Barton and Sandi Wagner are back to coach the team, joined by assistants Joann Quigg, Noel Shima and John Newell.
Juneau last played Colony in the state semifinals last season, when the Crimson Bears beat the Knights 1-0 to reach the state championship game. With the season so new - especially for the Knights, coming from the snow-covered Mat-Su valleys - Juneau doesn't have much scouting information. The Crimson Bears are just anxious to keep playing.
"We are looking forward to it," Barton said. "All the kids are very excited. They were very nervous last weekend, but hopefully that will get better and better the more chances they get on the field."
"It's going to be hard to repeat anything like last year, but we'll give it our best shot," Post said.
After this weekend's games, Juneau won't play at home again until mid-May. The Crimson Bears will play at Ketchikan on April 15-16; at Service, West Anchorage and South Anchorage on April 28-30; and at Colony, Palmer and Chugiak on May 4-6. Juneau wraps up its regular season at home against Ketchikan on May 13-14. The state tournament is in Anchorage on May 19-21.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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