WASILLA -- Stephanie Orsi had never scored a varsity goal before Saturday's third-place game at the state soccer tournament at Wasilla High School.
The Juneau-Douglas junior chose a good time for her first score, as Orsi's goal in the second half of Saturday's game gave the Crimson Bears a 2-1 victory over the Colony Knights.
"That was my first varsity goal, it was perfect," Orsi said. "I didn't think it would go in."
Orsi, who changes positions from defense to midfield and forward, scored in the 19th minute of the second half to break a 1-1 tie. Orsi brought the ball up the left side, then crossed it over to Crystal Barr while she made a break for the goal. As Orsi neared the goal and the defense started to collapse around her, Barr flicked the ball over to Orsi for the tap-in goal.
"She sent it over just right," Orsi said.
The victory gave Juneau (11-4-2 overall) its best finish since an officially sanctioned state tournament was created in 2000. The Crimson Bears lost both of its games to tie for seventh place in 2000 and finished fifth last year with a 1-2 record. Juneau went 2-1 at state this year, beating West Anchorage 4-2 on Thursday and losing to eventual champion Service 5-1 on Friday.
Service beat Dimond 5-1 in Saturday's girls championship game, plus the Cougars won the team sportsmanship award. The Homer Mariners won the team academic award with a 3.63 team GPA. Juneau landed two players -- midfielder Erin Flynn and defender Liza Slotnick -- on the all-tournament team.
Saturday's victory was Juneau's third in four games against Colony this season. The Crimson Bears beat the Knights twice by 3-2 scores in Juneau early in the season and lost 2-0 when the teams played at Colony on May 10.
"We love playing them," said Juneau junior Callan Janowiec, who scored Juneau's first goal and was named Juneau's player of the game by tournament officials. "We're pretty evenly matched and we always have good games."
"We'd rather play them than anybody else," said Juneau junior Olena Lundquist, who scored Juneau's goal against Service on Friday with an assist from Orsi.
"They've got a good attitude, they're fun to play," Orsi added.
Even though Colony lost to Juneau three times this year, the Knights seemed to share the enjoyment. Juneau and Colony also played three times last year.
"It was fun," said Colony's Sianna Garrod, who scored the lone goal for the Knights, who lost 2-1 to Dimond in Friday's semifinals. "They're a really good team to play."
Juneau had a couple of chances to score early in the game, but Janowiec hit the left goal post on a breakaway 3 1/2 minutes into the game and Krista Heard had a shot stopped by Colony goalkeeper Julie Coston. The Knights took the lead 1-0 in the 14th minute, as Garrod dribbled down the center and scored on a play set up by Kelly Quinn.
The Crimson Bears tied the game in the 29th minute as Janowiec scored on a breakaway after Alida Bus sent the ball forward on a long pass, leaving Janowiec just one defender to beat. Janowiec had another breakaway in the last minute of the half, but pulled her shot to the left.
"After I missed those, I thought it was going to be another one of those games," Janowiec said. "After the score's tied, we can start all over again."
Juneau had another chance to score to open the second half, but Heard's shot was stopped by Coston. Juneau kept pressing, and Orsi finally broke the tie in the game's 59th minute.
"After missing those chances early, it made us want to work harder and win," Orsi said.
In Friday's semifinal against Service, the Cougars took a 2-0 lead at halftime as Marcie Alzheimer scored on an assist from Jaimee Anderson in the game's third minute and Stefanie Smith scored on an assist from Molly Palmer 11 minutes later.
Smith scored an unassisted goal five minutes into the second half, then four minutes later Sue Dahle scored off a defender (with an assist from Palmer). Lundquist ended the shutout in the game's 66th minute on an assist from Orsi. With four minutes left in the game, Smith completed her hat trick by scoring her third goal with an assist from Colby Cardwell.
"It felt good to score on Service," Lundquist said.
"I'm glad we didn't go out with a shutout against Service," Janowiec said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
Team sportsmanship award -- Service Cougars.
Team academic award -- Homer Mariners, 3.63 team GPA.
Forwards -- Stefanie Smith, Service; Lydia Cotton, Dimond; Kelly Quinn, Colony; Marcie Alzheimer, Service.
Midfielders -- Emily Thompson, West Anchorage; Erin Flynn, Juneau-Douglas; Angie Faber, Dimond; Erin Gillespie, Service; Halley Jo Sullivan, Dimond; Brittany Derksen, Chugiak.
Defenders -- Shantel Haralson, Colony; Liza Slotnick, Juneau-Douglas; Liberty Zieghan, Service.
Goalkeeper -- Rachel Herter, Service.