After struggling during its previous five games, last weekend's sweep of Ketchikan may have been just what the doctor ordered for the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team as it heads into this weekend's state tournament.
The Crimson Bears, who beat Ketchikan 9-0 on Friday and 10-0 on Saturday, ended a three-game losing streak, a five-game winless streak and a four-game scoreless streak with the sweep last weekend.
Now Juneau (9-3-2 overall) can put the struggles behind as it plays in the state tournament. The Crimson Bears are hoping to improve on last year's fifth-place finish at state.
"I think this weekend helped a lot," Juneau senior defender Emily Smith said of last weekend's sweep. "We got so much confidence back."
"It definitely brought our confidence up a bit," Juneau sophomore flank Alida Bus said. "Now we have the right mental attitude. We'll definitely make an improvement on fifth place. We're going all the way."
The Crimson Bears open the tourney against the West Anchorage Eagles at 2 p.m. Thursday at Wasilla High School. In Thursday's other first-round games, the Service Cougars play the Grace Christian School Grizzlies at noon at Colony High School, the Colony Knights play the Chugiak Mustangs at 4 p.m. at Colony and the Dimond Lynx play the Homer Mariners at 6 p.m. at Wasilla.
If Juneau should win on Thursday, it plays the Service-Grace Christian winner at 4 p.m. Friday at Colony. If Juneau loses on Thursday, it plays the Service-Grace Christian loser at noon Friday at Wasilla. On Saturday, the fourth-place game is at 9 a.m. at Colony, the third-place game is 11 a.m. at Wasilla and the championship game is at 2:30 p.m. at Wasilla.
"The last week we made some fine adjustments, not big ones, in our back line, our midfield and our attack," Juneau co-coach Colin Barton said. "They did work a little bit. I'm very optimistic. I think we'll do well. Hopefully we learned and we were able to practice the things we didn't do well a couple of weeks ago. This is a good group of girls, they play for each other and they play with a lot of pride."
This season the Crimson Bears played just about every team that made last year's state tournament. But there were several upsets during the two region tournaments up north, so there are a few teams in this year's state tourney that Juneau hasn't played in recent years. In addition, last year's state champion East Anchorage was upset and didn't win a chance to defend its title.
West is the only Anchorage team Juneau didn't play this season, and it's been nearly three years since the Crimson Bears have taken the field against the Eagles. The Juneau players said they don't know much about West.
"We played them my sophomore year," Juneau senior central midfielder Erin Flynn said. "They'll be a strong team."
"When you go to state, you're only meeting good teams," Barton said.
Juneau played Colony three times this season, winning twice by 3-2 scores and losing once 2-0. Juneau played Chugiak to a scoreless tie, lost to Dimond 1-0 on a fluke goal with two minutes left and lost to Service 4-0 this season. Last year Juneau beat Chugiak 1-0 in the first round of the state tournament and lost 7-1 to Service in the third-place game, plus it beat Dimond 1-0 during the regular season on a goal with two minutes left and split two games against Colony. Juneau hasn't played West, Grace Christian or Homer over the past two seasons.
But the Crimson Bears said it doesn't really matter who they play, their game plan is still the same.
"We just have to get our shots in and play our hardest," Juneau junior defender Chelsea Farrington said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.