ANCHORAGE - The Juneau-Douglas High School girls soccer players exhibited on Saturday what made them so successful all season long.
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The Crimson Bears scored twice on perfectly constructed plays and notched their 10th shutout of the year in a 2-0 win over Service High School in the Alaska School Activities Association State Soccer Championships third-place game.
"We have a really good time," JDHS senior Talisa Rhea said. "Everyone enjoys playing soccer, and it's a lot of fun to play with people who care about each other."
Fullbacks Rhea, Brittany Lehnhart, Annika Ord, Lindsey Kato and Kirsten Jorgensen played another flawless game.
Kayla Walton made two key saves in the second half and provided a steady, sure-handed presence in goal. Walton has allowed just five goals against instate opponents all season long.
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"I think we get a lot of help from our midfielders getting back," Rhea said. "We do a good job of containing and then stepping and winning the ball. We work really well together ... there's a support system."
The Crimson Bears scored both goals in the first half.
In the 16th minute, freshman Nia Maake's goal capped an impressive series of passes.
The play started in midfield as Maake passed to striker Margaret Sekona. The junior flicked the ball ahead and then played a back heel pass to Jessica Waste on the right wing. Waste then delivered a perfect cross to a charging Maake on the far post, who headed in the goal.
For a team that has been so technically sound all year, the first goal proved a culmination of countless hours of practice and hard work.
"It felt good," Waste said. "It feels good when it hits off your foot the right way."
Rhea doubled Juneau-Douglas' lead after redirecting Jorgensen's twisting corner kick in the 36th minute.
JDHS kept the pressure on after halftime as Walton robbed Service's Amanda Dotten of a goal with a key reaction save.
After falling to South Anchorage in overtime the night before, Saturday's win meant something special to JDHS.
Saturday's win marked the end of the road for seniors Lehnhart, Waste, Kato, Rhea, Audrey Wagner and striker Sarah Christianson.
"It was really important," Waste said. "We had a really good game yesterday, and it didn't work out in our favor. To win third place, especially for our seniors, is a good way to go out."
South Anchorage 2, Juneau-Douglas 1, OT
In as evenly-played a match as could be contested, the Crimson Bears fell to South Anchorage High School in the semifinal round Friday.
Wolverines striker Amanda Hall beat JDHS goalkeeper Kayla Walton to a loose ball and scored in the first minute of overtime. South and JDHS battled back and forth for the remainder of the 20-minute extra period, but the Bears couldn't get the equalizer.
"You come away happy because you can go back and know there were no regrets," said Lehnhart, the Crimson Bears' central defender and captain. "That was our motto: No regrets. I'm very happy with the game and the season."
South took a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute.
The referee awarded the Wolverines a penalty kick after Lehnhart took down Hall by the goal. Hall found open space and was one-on-one with Walton before Juneau's captain swooped in to make the tackle. Carly Butcher converted the penalty kick.
"I'd be more upset if I didn't do anything," Lehnhart said. "Calls go for you and against you. I have to say I played it as legally as I could."
Luck went Juneau's way in the second half, however.
Kristen Jorgensen's curling corner kick trickled into the goal to tie the score in the 60th minute.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com