It isn't often that a Crimson Bears soccer team enters the state tournament as a sixth seed. Then again, it isn't often that the state's third seed is undefeated.
The Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team will take the first step in what could be a long, hard climb to a title when they open the 2009 State Soccer Championships against Northern Lights Conference winner Kenai Central High School on Thursday evening at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The Crimson Bears (9-3-2 overall, 4-0 Southeast Conference) tied for third in the state a year ago with Chugiak, after falling in the state semifinals to Service. The Kardinals (9-0-3 overall, 4-0-1 NLC) failed to make the championships in 2008, but have more than held their own this season and stayed atop the NLC in dominant fashion.
As anticipated, Cook Inlet Conference champion Service (19-0-1 overall) is the state's top seed this season, but many may be surprised to find that the CIC's runner-up Chugiak (12-3-3 overall) took the second seed over Kenai.
"(Seeding) is really a pretty convoluted system," JDHS head coach Matt Dusenberry said. "There's six different things they look at and one mathematical equation that divides points by number of games ... there's a bunch of factors. In the end, a commitee gets in a room and makes the decisions."
Nothing surprised Dusenberry about his team's seeding, and he feels confident entering Thursday with his current 16-girl squad. That group will not include junior midfielder Annika Ord, who was lost for the season to a knee injury during the team's roadtrip to Anchorage.
"Based on the games we played, I kind of figured we'd be fifth or sixth," the coach said. "I think we have a pretty good chance. I don't want to underestimate Kenai. I'm not sure they've played any Anchorage schools, so it's hard to get a read on where they are in comparison to us."
While it could be argued that the Bears have played a tougher schedule than the Kardinals this season, Dusenberry also feels that his team always has an inherent advantage entering the state tournament due to their usual scheduling.
"In the tournament, if you get into the championships, you have to play three games in three days," Dusenberry said. "I always thought it was kind of a benefit that the tournament is played the same way we play our season. When we travel, we're playing three or four games in a row. Even at home, it's never just one game."
Thursday's scheduled kickoff time is 6 p.m.
The winner of the JDHS-Kenai game will advance to take on either second-seeded Chugiak or seventh-seeded Wasilla at 4 p.m. on Friday. The loser of the JDHS-Kenai game will play the loser between fourth-seeded South and fifth-seeded West Valley at 10 a.m. on Friday in loser-out action.