Before they left for Hawaii to play in this week's U.S. Youth Soccer regional tourney, members of the Juneau Xtratuffs U-13 girls team joked about how they would explain their boot-inspired name to Outside opponents.
On Tuesday, there were no boots required. The team simply played "xtra tuff" on the field and walked off with a 3-0 win over FC Marauders 89 of Washington - the first-ever victory for a Juneau team at the Far West Regional Championships.
Margaret Sekona scored twice and Isabel Waldman knocked in one goal for the Juneau girls.
If the Xtratuffs beat the Mustang Fury of Northern California today in Honolulu, they will move on to the single-elimination quarterfinal round on Thursday. Both teams have one loss in the tourney.
In other action Tuesday, the Juneau Riptide U-13 boys team played well but fell to Colorado Storm Royal 1-0 on a fluke goal, and the Juneau Jaguars were shut out 8-0 by FC United 88 Navy of Washington. It was the second loss for both teams.
The Riptide play Nevada's Neusport 90 and the Jaguars face RHFC Real Copa 89 of Hawaii today, but neither squad will be able to advance to the next round of play.
Xtratuffs coach Tom Rutecki said his team's strong defensive stand was key to beating the FC Marauders. Goalie Kayla Walton had a great game, and she was assisted by stellar play from sweeper Michaela Goade.
"(Goade) must have saved three or four breakaway goal" attempts by the Washington team, Rutecki said from Honolulu on Tuesday evening. "She was spectacular at sweeper."
Rutecki said he feels the Xtratuffs have a good shot at beating Northern California today. Like the Xtratuffs, the Mustang Fury were shut out by a tough Southern California squad, and they beat the Washington team 1-0.
The Xtratuffs qualified for the regional tournament by winning a title at the State Cup in Fairbanks last August. As they spent months preparing to face teams from much larger cities and states, Rutecki said the team realized "we can't have millions of people to choose from (for the team), but we can be as fit as anyone."
"They worked really hard and took it really seriously this winter," he said of the reason for their success in Hawaii. "They deserve it."
Before the Xtratuffs' win Tuesday, Juneau teams had an 0-8-1 record at the Far West Regional Championships. The Juneau Wave U-14 girls team was the first to qualify and played in California in June 2000, but went winless in three games. The Jaguars traveled to Salt Lake City to play as a U-13 squad last year and went 0-2-1. And on Monday, all three Juneau teams lost their opening game in this year's tourney.
Rutecki said the total tournament experience has been wonderful for the players and their families.
"It's a fabulous place to have it," he said. "There's a lot of stuff to do for the kids, and the people are super friendly. ... They treat us like family."
The Jaguars could not get any momentum against FC United 88 Navy, and lost 8-0 for the second straight game.
"It was just not a good day of soccer for us," coach Mark Kelley said. "We did not play well."
The one bright spot, Kelley said, was that "the kids didn't give up. They worked hard."
Kelley said the team is hoping to close out its tourney run today with a successful game against the team from Hawaii. At last year's regional, the Jaguars' tie came against a Hawaiian opponent.
Further details on Tuesday's Juneau Riptide game were not available Tuesday evening.