WASILLA -- The first and last five minutes of a half can make or break a soccer game, and the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team used those minutes to beat the West Anchorage Eagles 4-2 during Thursday's opening round of the state soccer tournament at Wasilla High School.
The Crimson Bears used a pair of goals scored by captains Erin Flynn and Callan Janowiec in the last minute of the first half and first minute of the second half to break a 2-2 tie and clinch Thursday's victory.
"After every goal we worked that much harder for the next couple of minutes, just to keep the momentum," said Janowiec, who had a goal and an assist of Flynn's game-winner.
"The first minutes and last minutes of the half, it sets the pace for the rest of the game," said Flynn, who was named Juneau's player of the game by tournament officials after scoring two goals and assisting on two others. "It's all about desire."
With the victory, Juneau advances into today's 4 p.m. semifinal game at Colony High School in Palmer against the unbeaten Service Cougars, who blanked the Grace Christian School Grizzlies 8-0 on Thursday. Juneau's girls have never beaten Service, including a 4-0 loss on May 11.
In Thursday's other first-round games, the Colony Knights claimed a 3-2 double-overtime shootout victory over the Chugiak Mustangs at Colony, while the Dimond Lynx blanked the Homer Mariners 5-0 at Wasilla. Colony and Dimond will play in today's 6 p.m. semifinal game at Colony. In today's consolation games at Wasilla, West and Grace Christian will play at noon and Chugiak and Homer will play at 2 p.m.
If Juneau (10-3-2 overall) should beat Service today, it will advance to Saturday's 2:30 p.m. championship game at Wasilla against the Colony-Dimond winner. If the Crimson Bears lose today, it plays the Colony-Dimond loser for third place at 11 a.m. at Wasilla.
While Juneau scored in the last minute of the first half and the first minute of the second half to win Thursday's game, it took those goals to counter a pair of West scores in the fifth minute of the first half and with two minutes left in the half.
West (5-4-2 overall) took a 1-0 lead when Kristin Adair stole a ball in the left corner and bent the ball into the back of the net just 4 1/2 minutes after the game started.
Flynn scored three minutes later on a direct free kick to tie the score, and Juneau took a 2-1 lead in the 30th minute when Sarah Croteau scored off a corner kick by Flynn. In the 36th minute, Juneau had an apparent goal by Krista Heard disallowed because of offsides. Then, in the 39th minute of the half, Kate Murphy scored an unassisted goal on a long, high kick from about 30 yards out to tie the score at 2-2 for West.
But West's euphoria didn't last long, as Flynn scored on an assist from Janowiec just before the halftime whistle to give Juneau a 3-2 lead. Juneau added an insurance goal in opening minute of the second half when Janowiec headed in Flynn's corner kick with her nose.
"They say to use whatever part of your body you can, and on that header I hit it with my nose and it instantly went bloody on me," Janowiec said.
Flynn's first goal did a lot for Juneau's team spirit, especially since West's first goal came on a fluky shot bent around goalkeeper Erin Cottingham and into the back side of the net. Croteau's goal gave the team another lift, since she'd just come in off the bench and it came on Juneau's third corner kick attempt in two minutes.
"The direct kick kept our spirits up and motivated us," Flynn said. "We were definitely excited."
"That felt good," Croteau said of her score. "We switched around who was running up on the play. This is three wins in a row for us."
The Juneau girls have a post-game team award that went to defender Emily Smith, who was tossed a plastic bag containing a piece of old, moldy beef (and a laundry fabric softener sheet to keep the smell down). During games the girls will ask each other if they've got the beef -- which was wrapped in a paper towel with the word, "Bizeef," written on it -- trying to get their teammates to play harder. The prize is popular with the players, but not with their mothers, who don't want the smelly thing in the house.
"It's kind of gross," Janowiec said.
Smith said Heard's disallowed goal inspired the team, and she was happy to see Croteau's score a few minutes later.
"That was beautiful," Smith said. "I think that (the no-goal call) helped us. That call sucked."
West coach Maggie Curran, who wasn't hired until two days before the start of the season, said her team overcame a lot of adversity this season and the loss will help her team prepare for next year. She also said her team had to attend classes Thursday morning, then the school bus to take the team to the state tournament was late.
"This was kind of a mediocre game, and we'd been playing well lately," Curran said. "We haven't been to state in a long time and we came an awful long way this year. We've got a lot of freshmen and sophomores who start for us, so we're going to have a lot of depth next year. I thought juniors Emily Thompson (a midfielder who West's player of the game) and Hilary Rea on defense really did well for us."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.