PALMER - The state championship dreams of the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team came to a premature end Thursday as the previously unbeaten Crimson Bears were upset 1-0 by the East Anchorage Thunderbirds at Colony High School.
Juneau (12-1-1 overall) had more chances to score than East did, but couldn't find the net. The Thunderbirds (5-9-0) took advantage of a 45-yard direct free kick by Dena Baskous six minutes into the second half for the game's only score. Baskous blasted a curving shot that floated into the top of the net above the outstretched hands of Juneau goalkeeper Amy Henderson.
"On that one I was shooting, and the one after it," said Baskous, a defender who took many of East's longer free kicks including a shot midway through the second half that bounced off the top crossbar. "That's in my range; I have a far kick."
"I stepped up for it, and it was higher than I thought is was," Henderson said. "My timing was off. I thought we'd beat them, but we panicked a lot. Tonight will be kind of glum, but we'll be back ready to play tomorrow."
The Crimson Bears struggled to get their offense going against East's defense. Juneau had at least a dozen chances to score, but had its shots go wide or had runs stopped by a half-dozen offsides calls. East goalkeeper Brynn Riordan only had to make three tough saves.
Juneau's best chance to score came with about 2 1/2 minutes left in the game, when Liza Slotnick sent a corner kick toward the middle that Gretchen Dierking headed into the arms of Riordan. Juneau's Callan Janowiec also appeared to have a good angle on the ball, if Dierking hadn't taken the shot.
"Gretchen had a great header, it was just right at their goalkeeper," Juneau midfielder Kendri Cesar said. "She was in the right place at the right time. It's definitely disappointing. We'll be out to kill tomorrow. We had so many opportunities. We were just unlucky, I guess."
"We were all pretty frantic," Baskous said of the corner kick, which was Juneau's second within a minute span.
The Crimson Bears opened the game with two strong runs at the East goal before the game was three minutes old. Dierking sent the first shot into the side of the net, and the second chance saw a missed pass to Janowiec that rolled across the front of the goal mouth. Juneau had other chances to score in the first half, with the best run coming midway through the half when Theresa Badilla sent a pass ahead to Janowiec for the shot.
"We just weren't getting together," said Juneau defender Liza Slotnick, who was named Juneau's player of the game. "I think we shut them down, except for the free kick. We didn't get to play any of the Anchorage teams this year, so I think we lost sight of how much more intense we needed to be. We'll be mad about this."
East was the fourth seed from Region IV entering the tournament, but Baskous said the Thunderbirds still had a half-dozen players on the team from its 2001 state championship run. She said that may have helped settle the T-Birds down, especially when Juneau stepped up its attack after the East goal.
"We knew we had to have the mentality," said Baskous, who was East's player of the game. "We had the physical to do it."
"You can't really be thinking about it (the score); you have to be in the moment," Riordan added. "I could just hope I was in the right place at the right time. We've had our games where we didn't play as well as we could, but we can do better."
In the second half, Juneau had three straight runs where Janowiec was called offsides as East's defense kept slipping in behind her for an offsides trap. The Crimson Bears had a good chance midway through the second half when Jessy Post passed an indirect free kick to Cesar for a shot, but the shot went wide right. A minute later, Dierking sent another shot wide right.
The Crimson Bears tried to schedule more than one Anchorage team this year, but couldn't get more than one game against Bartlett, which didn't make the state tournament. The light schedule meant Juneau wasn't as tested as it has been in past years.
Today's Juneau games
Juneau-Douglas (12-3-1) vs. Wasilla (9-3-2)
6 p.m. at Wasilla
Juneau-Douglas (12-1-1) vs. Palmer (8-4-1)
Noon at Wasilla
"The entire season we never were down a goal, we never had to battle back," Janowiec said. "In the beginning it helped us because they didn't see us (but) it hurt us not getting the competition."
The Crimson Bears will play Palmer at noon today in a consolation game at Wasilla High School, with the winner advancing to Saturday's 9 a.m. fourth-sixth place game at Colony while the loser is eliminated.
Palmer lost 3-1 to West Anchorage on Thursday. Earlier this season, Juneau beat Palmer 3-1 at Palmer High School.
In Thursday's other first-round games, Dimond beat Colony 3-1 and Service beat Wasilla 6-0 in the late game.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.