The Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer team enters today's state tournament first-round game with one of the best defenses in Alaska.
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The Crimson Bears (9-4-2) have allowed just 10 goals all year, only three against Alaska opponents, while earning shutouts in nine of the 15 games they've played all year.
JDHS co-coach Colin Barton noted where his defense excels: "Playing very well together as a unit and playing extremely well disciplined."
"We try to keep kids on their feet," Barton said. "Not to over-commit and not to get beaten, and if they are, they should be someone else there to clean it up."
Defense has been a staple of Juneau-Douglas girls soccer for years.
This year's backline features Lindsey Kato, Kirsten Jorgensen, Brittany Lehnhart and Annika Ord. Lehnhart, a captain, plays the central defender role and is responsible for organizing the defense.
Those four, along with goalkeeper Kayla Walton, serve as a backbone for Juneau's team. No Alaska team has scored more than one goal in a game against JDHS. By not allowing any goals or quality shot opportunities, frequently all the Crimson Bears need to win is one goal.
JDHS girls soccer
Who: No. 4 Juneau-Douglas vs. No. 5 Homer.
What: ASAA State Soccer Tournament first round game.
Where: Anchorage Football Stadium.
When: 2 p.m. today.
What's at stake: Winner of today's game will take on No. 1 South Anchorage in the semifinal round at noon Friday.
Much of those goals have come from striker Margaret Sekona. Her amazingly quick feet and finishing prowess around the goal makes her Juneau's primary scoring option.
One goal from Sekona, coupled with a stout defensive effort, can be a winning formula for JDHS.
"We're very reliant on Margaret Sekona," Barton said. "She has been the top scorer for the past three years. She's a prolific scorer. ... She handles it very well indeed. Once she's on the field and when she's playing, she knows what to do and what's expected."
In preparation for today's contest with Homer, Barton said his team worked on set pieces.
Set pieces are any free kick taken from the field: a direct or indirect kick after a penalty, a corner kick or a penalty kick. These dangerous plays can result in a quick goal and change in momentum.
Taking advantage of these opportunities and successfully defending them can be the difference between winning and losing.
"They become very, very, very important, both offensively and defensively," Barton said. "We lost the finals last year (2-0 to Dimond) through two set pieces. The thing was we should've scored two goals from set pieces prior to them scoring."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.