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The Juneau-Douglas girls' soccer team made it to the brink of a state title last year in Anchorage, only to lose to a Service team that has won consecutive Alaska crowns.
Now, with the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 2010 State Soccer Championships in Juneau for the first time ever, the second-seeded Crimson Bears have a chance to erase the memories of last year's disappointment in front of the hometown crowd.
JDHS (14-4-1) has a good shot at doing just that heading into the tournament with a first-round matchup against the seventh-seeded Wasilla Warriors (12-4-1) at 3 p.m. today at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park.
Top-seeded Service (16-0-1) begins on the opposite side of the bracket against No. 8 Colony (9-4-1) at 11 a.m. at Thunder Mountain High School.
Service took last year's championship with a 4-0 shutout against the Bears, but JDHS coach Matt Dusenberry said revenge is not on the mind of his team, though he did say it would be nice to get another shot in the title game.
"I don't think we're even thinking that way," he said. "We've got Wasilla to worry about first. Our mantra last year during the state tournament was to get better one game at a time, and that's going to be our focus here.
"We're not going to look past anybody," he continued. "If you start overlooking opponents, you're going to get surprised yourself."
Senior Annika Ord, who was unable to play in the 2009 title game due to injury, is looking forward to the chance to be back on the big stage with her teammates. And if the Service Cougars advance in their bracket, it could be a rematch of epic proportions. The Cougars have not been defeated in 41 straight matches - and counting.
"I want to get a chance to play (Service)," she said. "They're a really good team, but I feel like it's about time they lost."
While Ord hopes for the chance to get to the final game, she knows the team cannot look ahead too much or they'll be watching the championship on Saturday instead of playing.
"You can't underestimate a team, but I feel like we have a good chance," she said. "But we'll see how it goes."
The Crimson Bears have not faced Wasilla this year, but they have fared well against the Warriors' common opponents this season.
Having the state tournament in Juneau will be a new experience for coaches and players alike. Although the comforts of home are generally favored, being on the road can oftentimes be less distracting.
"It's nice because we get to sleep in our own bed, but I usually like being somewhere else because you're with the team and you're not having to go to school," Ord said. "But it'll be nice to be at home with our fans and parents there. It's a trade-off."
"It's a much more controlled environment (on the road)," he said. "To a certain extent, you know what the kids are eating, you know what they're doing and we're together as team.
"On the flip side, they get to sleep in their own bed and will probably be more rested."
But both coaches and players feel their heads are in the right place, and being at home should not be a distraction.
Dusenberry said other teams worth watching during the weekend's games include No. 4 West Valley (10-2-1), No. 5 South Anchorage (15-3-2) and No. 6 Dimond (14-5-1), a team that came on strong late in the season.
State tournament action will take place at both Adair-Kennedy Field and Thunder Mountain High School. A full schedule can be found on page B2 in the print version of the sports section.