ANCHORAGE -- As the Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team was warming up for its state tournament opener against the Chugiak Mustangs on Thursday night, the Crimson Bears overheard a comment one of the Mustangs made to her coach.
The Bears didn't appreciate the comment, so Juneau had a little more intensity as it finished its warm-up. Then, the Crimson Bears scored a goal less than two minutes into the game and made the goal hold up as they claimed a 1-0 victory over Chugiak in the first round of the state tournament at Anchorage Football Stadium.
"They said they were glad to play us because they thought we'd be an easy one and they'd go right into the semifinals," Juneau goalkeeper Amanda Krafft said.
The victory sends Juneau (10-4-1 overall) into today's 6 p.m. semifinal against the East Anchorage Thunderbirds (7-3-4), who claimed a 1-0 victory over the Kenai Kardinals (10-3-1) in a first-round game played at Dimond High School. Chugiak fell to 7-6-2 with the loss. In the other first-round games Thursday, the defending state champion Service Cougars (13-1-0) claimed a 6-0 victory over the Palmer Moose (9-4-2) at AFS and the Dimond Lynx (8-6-1) blanked 3-0 the Colony Knights (13-2-0) at Dimond.
Service and Dimond will play in today's 4 p.m. semifinal at AFS. Today's semifinal between Juneau and East is a rematch of a 3-3 tie between the two teams three weekends ago. The two semifinal winners will play at 2 p.m. on Saturday for the state championship, with the losers playing at 11 a.m. in the third-fifth place game, both at AFS.
"We were ready to play today," Juneau outside striker Erin Flynn said. "We played our hardest."
Flynn scored the game's only goal, taking a centering pass from Alida Bus on the right wing and blasting it past Chugiak goalkeeper Liz Hall about 1 minute, 10 seconds after the opening whistle. Juneau had several other scoring chances, but that was the only time the Crimson Bears found the net.
"That definitely got us revved up," Bus said. "It was kind of a reward for a good warm-up. We showed a lot of intensity."
"I got right between their middle and their defense and I think we had another player (Ella Magallanes) there and I called her off," Flynn said. "I didn't even think about what I was doing, I just did it."
The Crimson Bears, who lost 3-1 to Chugiak two weekends ago, controlled most of the action and kept the Mustangs in their defensive zone for almost the entire game. Magallanes missed a direct free kick high in the game's ninth minute, and Flynn was stopped by Hall on a breakaway in the 28th minute. Callan Janowiec also had a couple of good runs late in the first half, and the only difficult shot Chugiak took (by Kaylen Kelley) was stopped by Krafft with two minutes left before the break.
"It was nice to get the early goal because it helped us be able to keep our intensity up," Janowiec said.
With about eight minutes left in the first half, Janowiec was trying to pick up a loose ball as Hall came out for the save and the two collided. Hall left the game with a head injury and didn't return.
Three minutes after play resumed, Janowiec got loose on a breakaway but Hall's replacement, Jessie Malacha, was able to make the save. Midway through the second half, Janowiec was chasing down another loose ball and collided with Malacha, which resulted in a yellow card (a warning from the referee).
"I tried to jump over her (Hall), but my knee came down on her," said Janowiec, who apologized to Hall after the game. "On the other one, I was going too hard at the goalie and couldn't stop in time."
As for Juneau's defense, Choquette, Liza Slotnick, Chelsea Farrington, Letasha McKoy and Emily Smith all did an excellent job keeping the pressure off Krafft. While the early goal helped take some pressure off most of the Juneau players, Krafft said in some ways it added some.
"It almost meant more pressure," Krafft said. "Because they can get one to tie it, but they also can take the momentum with a goal. We used our anger in this game."
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.