Five Juneau Soccer Club teams will be in Anchorage this week for the 2001 Alaska State Cup tournament, the state's top youth soccer tourney.
The Juneau teams include the XtraTufs (U12 girls), Titans (U13 girls), Quicksilver (U15 girls), RipTide (U12 boys) and Jaguars (U13 boys). This will be the first state tournament for all but the Juneau Quicksilver, which took third place in the U14 division last year.
The tournament opens with round-robin pool-play on Wednesday morning and concludes with the championship round on Sunday. There are 73 teams from Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su Valley and Juneau in age groups that range from U12 through U17 for both genders. The tournament will take place at Javier de la Vega Fields and South Anchorage Sports Complex.
The champions from the older age groups will advance to the 2002 Far West Regional Soccer Tournament in Salt Lake City next summer.
"I'm really nervous," said Kayla Harmon, a member of the Titans. "I don't want to mess up."
"I'm nervous, but I'm excited, too," added Jessica Waste, another Titan. "We went to Whitehorse (Yukon Territory) this year, and that was our first trip."
The XtraTufs and the Titans played on a combined squad last year, but this summer the Juneau Soccer Club started splitting the teams into single-year age groups. The two teams scrimmaged each other Monday and both headed to Anchorage this morning.
"Half the team is new to competition," Titans coach Jamie Waste said. "But we decided to do the split to grow the club. Last year between these two age groups we had 20 kids out, and now we've got about 40. We've doubled the number of kids."
Some of the XtraTufs, who chose their name to honor Juneau's popular rainboot, actually have more experience than the older Titans. Coach Tom Rutecki said most of his players have been together since they were 9 years old, and he said the team beat 13 teams from Ketchikan and Whitehorse in this summer's Solstice Cup tournament in Juneau.
"This is a good group of kids," Rutecki said. "We've got 18 girls, and we'll play them all. Offensively we've only got a couple of goal scorers, but defensively they're all strong, and they're quick, too."
Several of the XtraTufs said they couldn't wait for the tournament to start.
"It's competitive, that's what I like," said Elizabeth Tallmadge.
"It's exciting and competitive," teammate Lindsey Collins added.
Teammate Shaina Fay said she likes soccer more than other sports.
"You're always doing something, everything can happen," she said.
"We'll do pretty well," Lucy Squibb said about the tournament.
The RipTide and the Jaguars also will be making their first trips to the state cup. The RipTide is coached by Rod Flynn and the Jaguars are coached by Mark Kelley. Flynn said the RipTide went to Whitehorse last week and won the U12 division in the Gold Rush Tournament, beating the Whitehorse Wild Things 2-0 in Sunday's championship game.
"The kids are excited about playing against the best teams in the state and hope to challenge for the state championship," Flynn said.
The Quicksilver have the most tournament experience of the five Juneau teams going to the tournament. The Quicksilver are making their fourth trip to the state cup, and last month they went to the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minn., for the All-American Girls Tournament and the USA Cup. The Quicksilver took second place in its division at the USA Cup, and co-coach Leslie Houston (with Doug Badilla) said the team hopes to make the championship at state this year.
But win or lose, the five teams all have one goal.
"We want to have fun," Titans player Natalie Ward said.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.