With a mixture of new blood and veteran athletes, the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team opens the season at 12:45 p.m. today against West Valley.
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Today's game against the Wolfpack begins a packed opening weekend with other games against Ketchikan and Dimond.
Juneau, third in last year's state tournament, is returning a number of players but also looking to work in new personnel.
"We're still figuring out where everyone will play," JDHS co-coach Sandi Wagner said. "We've got some kids that have played varsity for four years and some that don't know how to play the game at all. We've got the full gamut."
The Crimson Bears boast a solid front line with returning forwards Margaret Sekona and Sarah Christianson, but the team's biggest strength should be the midfield.
Captains Gretchen Dierking and Jessy Post are known for controlling a game, as part of the Crimson Bears' four-player midfield.
JDHS co-coach Colin Barton described the Bears' system as a 4-4-2 with midfielders in a diamond formation and the fullbacks playing straight across, known as a flat-back four.
Within the diamond, three attacking midfielders and one holding midfielder will look to play off each other and dictate play with a short passing game. As opposing players move up to center to challenge for the ball, Barton hopes this will create a corridor for the wing defenders to come up and attack.
This means the Bears' defenders must be in top shape. The players will be expected to contribute heavily to the offense, timing 100-yard sprints up and down the field to be available on the wing for an attack and able to get back to defend the goal.
It is a demanding position, but Barton is not concerned about the team's fitness level.
"They've got a lot of running to do," Barton said. "We're not there yet, but we should be there."
Barton also feels that his players can handle the duel responsibility of saving and scoring goals.
"Everybody's got to play defense in today's game; that's how it is," Barton said. "It may turn people off from soccer because there is so much running."
Sophomore Rachel Traver is one of the players taking on the demanding wingback position.
"It's the first time I've played it, but I like it because it includes shooting and playing every play at defense," Traver said.
Although the center is the strong point of the Bears' offense, Traver describes the role of the wingbacks as crucial.
"We're the X factor out on the wing. The team plays so much in the center with short, quick balls in the middle, we need long serves from the outside."
Wagner noted that the Bears' defense has experienced the largest turnover from last year. Juneau also returns Kayla Walton, who will by the primary goalkeeper after sharing the position last season.
"We've got some youngsters in 'D' this year, but they're stepping up," Wagner said.
The Crimson Bears bring experience to the field with eight seniors, including varsity returners Janelle Smith and Marita Rodriguez.
As for goals this season, both Smith and Rodriguez were very clear.
"I'd like to win state," Smith said.
Rodriguez added, "That's achievable. We're a strong team."
While the team is anxious to play, the coaches are looking forward to today's first game and getting their team some game experience.
"At this point in the year," Barton said, "we've got to get a few games under our belt."
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