The Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls soccer teams know they will be playing a series of games in Southcentral Alaska this week.
What they don't know is just where, when and how many games they'll get.
Wet field conditions and tight schedules have wreaked havoc on the Crimson Bears' trips north this season. As of Tuesday afternoon, after a lot of legwork to set up matches, the Crimson Bear boys and girls each had two definite games and one "to be determined" game opening.
The Juneau boys will play Bartlett this evening and Colony on Thursday. Friday's open slot may be filled by East, West or Chugiak, but Juneau boys coach Gary Lehnhart said those plans have yet to be finalized.
The Juneau girls were still searching Tuesday for an opponent today. They will play Colony on Thursday and Bartlett on Friday.
The Crimson Bear boys (5-3) are coming off a pair of home wins against Homer two weeks ago. Lehnhart said the team is still a work in progress at this point of the season.
"We're still trying to find the right combinations," Lehnhart said, adding that he is not in the mindset of scouting opponents to find ways to stop them. "Hopefully, in the end, other teams will be worried about stopping us."
The Crimson Bears are coping with another injury; senior defender Kyle Thibodeau is nursing a sprained ankle and is questionable for this week's games.
After posting two solid wins against Homer - a much smaller school - Lehnhart said the Crimson Bears are ready to be tested by the larger Southcentral teams.
"The last time we played, we played well against a smaller opponent," he said. Playing the larger Anchorage-area schools "will be a good assessment of where we are at this point."
Juneau has not played Bartlett since the Crimson Bears beat the Golden Bears 5-0 on May 3, 2001 in the middle of a snowstorm in Anchorage. This season, the Bartlett boys had a 1-4 record going into a Tuesday night game against West.
The Colony boys are 2-1-1 this season. The Crimson Bears last faced the Knights last season, when Juneau won 3-0 May 10 at Colony.
The Crimson Bear girls are still undefeated this season, sporting a 7-0 mark after three wins against Homer two weeks ago. The team is also still trying to get its lineups set and work past injuries. Co-coach Colin Barton said he hopes to reintegrate several recuperating players into this week's games.
Barton said the condensed Alaska season forces teams to work out their kinks as they are trying to secure a state berth.
"You're trying to develop and trying to win games at the same time," he said. "The full effect of everything is not felt until the final week."
Barton - who also assists Lehnhart in coaching the boys team - said this week's games will prove valuable in testing the teams on the field and helping them bond off of it.
"It's nice for the kids, (having) both the boys and the girls traveling together," he said. "We support each other more than any other high school that I know of."
Like the boys, the last time the Juneau girls played Bartlett was in a snowstorm in Anchorage on May 3, 2001 - and the Crimson Bears won, 4-0. The Bartlett girls were 1-5 this season going into a game against West Anchorage earlier this week.
Juneau hosted Colony earlier this month and beat the Knights twice - 3-1 and 4-0. The Knights are 2-2 overall this season.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.
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