Other than the four shots that found goalposts instead of net, the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer played nearly a perfect game in beating the Wasilla Warriors 5-0 Thursday night at the Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park football field.
The Crimson Bears held Wasilla without a shot and displayed a crisp passing game as they played their first official game on the new artificial turf at Adair-Kennedy. After years of playing on the gravel-strewn dirt and sand pitch -- formerly but not affectionally called the "Juneau Litterbox" -- the Crimson Bears appreciated the new turf, which looks and plays like grass.
"We played exactly how we've been practicing," Juneau senior midfielder Kristen Bressette said. "Our passing is so much better and Dani's (sophomore defender Danielle Choquette's) crosses were awesome."
"It's easier to lift the ball when we pass," Juneau senior midfielder/forward Ella Magallanes said. "I think we'll do well at state."
Juneau opened its season last weekend with a pair of 7-0 victories in Ketchikan, but the field in Ketchikan is a sandbox similar to the old Juneau field. Moving onto the new turf meant the Crimson Bears could slide-tackle without fear.
"We can be more aggressive," Juneau freshman forward Crystal Barr said. "We can slide and not get strawberries."
The Crimson Bears will play two more games on the field tonight, as they play Wasilla again at 6 p.m. and host the Colony Knights at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Juneau hosts Wasilla at 11:30 a.m. and Colony at 3:15 p.m. The Juneau boys will play an exhibition game against a local adult/alumni all-star team at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday.
Juneau dominated Thursday's game from the start, but the first couple of Crimson Bear shots either hit the goalpost or were right at Wasilla sophomore goalkeeper Melissa Wallace.
Finally, in the game's 17th minute, Juneau took a 1-0 lead as senior forward Chelsea Walden picked up a loose ball after it deflected off a defender and lifted it about 25 yards into the net. Juneau hit another goalpost a couple of minutes later, then made it 2-0 in the game's 27th minute when Bressette scored from 10 yards out on an assist from Magallanes.
"Those first couple of goals sparked us," Magallanes said.
Magallanes made it 3-0 in the game's 38th minute as she and Wasilla defender Cara Hesselbach both chest-trapped in a crossing pass from Barr, who brought the ball up the right side to the end line, then crossed the ball over to Magallanes standing in the goal box.
Seven minutes into the second half, Magallanes scored her second goal of the game as she knocked in a cornerkick from Choquette. Juneau completed the scoring in the 35th minute of the second half as Barr headed in a cornerkick from Choquette that also appeared to glance off Juneau freshman midfielder Alida Bus' head.
"I think we're a lot stronger this year," Walden said. "This was my first game this season."
Juneau outshot Wasilla 22-0, with 17 of those shots coming in the first half. The Crimson Bears kept the pressure off sophomore goalkeeper Amy Henderson, who wasn't able to play in the net last weekend in Ketchikan because she dislocated her right thumb blocking shots in practice. Henderson, who played in the field last weekend while six of her teammates took turn in goal, just received medical clearance to play goal on Wednesday. She had to pick up two long through-balls, but neither were classified as shots.
"It's better, we're just taping it up now," Henderson said as she showed off the heavy tape job. "This was a good warm-up."
The Crimson Bears are experimenting with several roster combinations this weekend, and they shifted players around in the second half. But the Warriors also looked stronger as they started to get used to playing on a regulation-sized field. Because of the lingering snow in Wasilla, the Warriors had only been able to hold one practice outdoors before Thursday's game, and that was on an asphalt parking lot.
"This was a wonderful first practice for us," Wasilla coach Tony Jensen said. "I was very impressed with the way we played in the first eight or 10 minutes of the second half, but then we hit a wall and our lack of conditioning showed. It was 5-0, and it could have been a lot worse if Juneau didn't hit the post so much. But I found a goalie in Melissa Wallace and at least three of my sophomores stepped up and showed they needed to be playing varsity. I anticipate our next games will be closer with Juneau."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.