Three Juneau Soccer Club teams were shut out Wednesday as they lost their last games of the 2004 U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships in Spokane, Wash.
In their final round-robin games of the tournament, the U-15 Juneau Jaguars boys lost 4-0 to Real Colorado National; the U-14 Juneau Xtratuffs girls lost 3-0 to New Mexico's RV Disko 90; and the U-13 Juneau Reign boys fell 4-0 to Utah's Impact United '91.
None of the three Juneau teams advanced to the next round, and neither did any of the other Alaska teams in Spokane.
The Juneau teams felt they faced a few disadvantages in the tournament. But the Juneau teams showed improvement as the tourney progressed, despite the disadvantages.
Most states hold their regional qualifying tournaments in the spring, but Alaska holds its state championship in August because of weather. That means the other state champions are fresh from their qualifying tournaments, while the Alaska teams have had a nine-month layoff.
"The gap was slowly narrowing," Reign coach Doug Badilla said. "They have their qualifying tournament leading up to this, and there were 65 teams in Northern California. We have eight teams in our state cup. We're not as seasoned, but it was a good learning experience for playing at this level."
"We could get a better draw," Xtratuffs coach Tom Rutecki said. "It's too bad we couldn't play in the region with Montana and Wyoming. Wyoming got hammered 14-0 twice and I think they lost 12-1 today. In Little League, the small states play each other before they play the big states. But that doesn't happen here."
The Reign was making its first appearance at the regional tournament, while the Xtratuffs were making a second straight trip and the Jaguars were on their third visit to regionals.
The Jaguars trailed 2-0 at halftime, and coach Mark Kelley said his team gave a good effort against the Colorado squad.
"We were really in the game," Kelley said. "They worked really hard. ... They ended positively."
Kelley said Jamaal Bailey continued to excel for the Jaguars.
"Jamaal, all tournament long, had had an unbelievable work rate - 110 percent the whole time," Kelley said. "(And) today, the whole team gave it their all."
Bailey contributed to one of the Jaguars' best scoring chances, threading a pass up the middle to Carlo Ebron, whose shot went wide.
After a rough start in the first game, Jaguars goalie Eric Choquette rebounded with some nice saves.
"The last two games, he played really well," Kelley said. "Most of the goals scored on him weren't going to be stopped by anyone."
The Xtratuffs fell behind 3-0 in the first half of their game, which included an own-goal for New Mexico by Juneau's Carly Lehnhart.
"We played a good game. We got better and better," Rutecki said. "Carly Lehnhart scored an own-goal and wanted to get her name in the paper. I'm sure it wasn't what she wanted to do."
The New Mexico team advances to the quarterfinals with the victory, finishing second to a Northern California team that only beat it 4-3 earlier in the round-robin bracket.
"We had some shots," said Rutecki, adding that "it was an honor to be here."
"Our big thing was getting the ball in the air today," Rutecki said. "We did a lot better job of heading the ball."
The Reign also trailed 3-0 at halftime, but then its defense stiffened and held Utah scoreless until the last few minutes of the game.
"If anything, it showed us what it takes to play defense at this level," Badilla said. "We tried to get our man-to-man marking in the second half, and it was a big improvement."
Badilla said his defense was led by the back four of Joe Slagle, Collin Sielbach, Nathan Teal and Ben Weyhrauch.
"We definitely did a better job of winning crosses to the goalmouth and winning balls in the air," Badilla said of one of Wednesday's emphasis points for his team. "Most of the goals they scored weren't those types of goals. They scored two goals up the middle, on through-ball dribbling."
The three Juneau teams qualified for the Spokane tournament by winning titles at the Alaska State Cup tournament last August in Palmer. This year's State Cup is August 10-14 in Anchorage.
"We know what to expect, it was a good learning experience," Badilla said of his team's first trip to regionals. "Now we know how hard we need to train for regionals if we win state again."
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