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The Juneau-Douglas High School boys soccer team completed an undefeated three-game road trip by handing the Service Cougars their first loss of the season, winning 3-1 Saturday afternoon at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The Crimson Bears also beat Colony 3-0 on Friday at Colony High School in Palmer. The road trip opened with a 5-2 victory over Wasilla on Thursday in Wasilla.
But it was the victory over Service that clinched the road trip, as the Cougars were 8-0-0 entering the game and Juneau (now 13-1-0), while nationally ranked and the defending state champions, had been upset 1-0 by Chugiak last week in Anchorage.
"Both of us look pretty solid about qualifying for state," Juneau coach Gary Lehnhart said of Service. "The game didn't really mean much as far as state goes, but the game set the tone for us mentally. We were able to come in and dominate play."
The Cougars took a 1-0 lead in the game's fourth minute, as Jason Richards picked up a loose ball after Juneau had been attacking on Service's end, sent the ball ahead to Paul Duffy, who sent it back to Richards for the goal.
Lehnhart said the game started to change about midway through the first half, and Juneau scored twice in the last 11 minutes of the half.
Juneau tied the game in the 29th minute on a goal by Kalon Wright. After a throw-in, Jon Rue flicked the ball to Axel Thibodeau, who headed the ball toward the goal. Wright scored off the deflection.
Travis Croteau, who'd missed Juneau's first two games of the road trip because of a flu bug, scored the game winner in the last minute of the first half. Thibodeau went down the right side, drawing the lone Service defender. He passed it to Croteau, who had an open net to shoot at.
"Travis missed two games, but he played 80 minutes today. I never took him out," Lehnhart said. "He said he was ready to go and he gave us a great effort."
"They always say the first five minutes and last five minutes of a half are when you can break games wide open," Thibodeau told the Anchorage Daily News. "We played great ball on the wing and there was nothing else for me to do. Travis made a great play."
The Crimson Bears added an insurance goal in the game's 66th minute, when Lee Sullivan scored off a crossing pass from Zach Essary.
"The difference in the game was we took more and better shots," Lehnhart said. "The second half was pretty even, but when we got to the goal we were able to take better shots. Finishing had been a problem for us."
Juneau's been battling a few injuries, and defender Jake Haas played all three games of the road trip with a broken cheekbone from a collision in practice last Monday. Senior defender Collin Daugherty, who'd missed the team's previous five games with a deep thigh bruise, played all three games on the trip and Lehnhart said he was easing back into playing shape.
"I only saw Jake back off on one header this weekend," Lehnhart said. "He had so much swelling and his nose was bleeding constantly. But he didn't want me to take him out. Jake was pretty incredible."
Juneau beat Service 2-1 in the first round of last year's state tournament, and the Cougars still feel that loss.
"I'll be glad when we see them (the Crimson Bears) again," Richards told the Anchorage Daily News. "When we do, we're going to state and we're winning state."
In Friday's game, which was a rematch of the 2000 state championship game, Juneau dominated the early action and had several flurries in the Colony defensive end.
Robert Lossett scored an unassisted goal in the game's ninth minute as he chipped a long shot over the Colony goalkeeper's head. The play followed one of Juneau's flurries, and Lehnhart said the Knights seemed to relax when they cleared away the flurry only to have Lossett get the ball back for Juneau.
In the 29th minute, Lossett scored again on an assist from Rue. Juneau scored its third goal in the second minute of the second half as Rue scored an unassisted goal that the Colony goalkeeper knocked down for the save, only to have the ball take a funny bounce and go into the net.
Juneau hosts Ketchikan for two games this weekend and all the Crimson Bears need is a tie in order to clinch a return trip to the state tournament. Juneau beat Ketchikan twice earlier this season in Ketchikan. The games are Friday and Saturday night at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, but game times haven't been set yet.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Thibodeau told the Anchorage Daily News. "Hopefully we can come back and play better than we have been."