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The Juneau Jaguars, a U13 boys team, became just the second Juneau Soccer Club team to win a title in the Alaska State Cup soccer tournament, beating Northern Lights Soccer Club of Anchorage 3-1 in Sunday's championship games in Anchorage.
Two other JSC teams reached Sunday's championship games, but came out on the short end of the final score. The Juneau XtraTufs, a U12 girls team, lost a 1-0 decision to the Fairbanks Eclipse, while the Juneau Quicksilver, a U15 girls team, dropped a 3-1 decision to the Alaska Goldstrikers of Anchorage.
Juneau sent two other teams to the State Cup tournament -- the Juneau Titans, a U13 girls team, and the Juneau RipTide, a U12 boys team -- but both lost in Saturday's semifinals. Juneau was the only league to have all five of its teams reach the semifinals of the tournament.
With their victory the Jaguars joined the Juneau Wave, a U14 girls team that became the first JSC squad to win a state cup title two years ago in Fairbanks. By winning the state cup, the Jaguars qualified for the Western Regionals in Salt Lake City next June. Most of the other states hold their qualifying tournaments next April, but Alaska's is held early because of its late-arriving spring weather. Alaska teams haven't done well in the past, but Jaguars coach Mark Kelley said some of the nation's top teams compete in the Western Regional.
"I talked to a coach who took his team a couple of years ago and he said his team ended up playing the team that went on to win the national championship," Kelley said. "It'll be great to play against the very best teams in the nation. Win or lose, it's a winning situation."
The Jaguars, who played at 8 a.m. Sunday, fell behind 1-0 in the first half as one of the defenders was beaten when he slipped on the wet field and slid about 10 feet away from the play. But Juneau scored three times in the second half -- on goals by David Wrightson, Cary Kelly and Jamaal Bailey -- to claim the victory. The Jaguars only had 12 of their 15 players available for the tournament, missing one player because of a family emergency and two who were playing in the Far West Regional Little League baseball tournament in San Bernardino, Calif.
"Our motto is if they can't score, they can't win," said Kelley, whose team outscored its opponents 14-2 in four games. "It was a credit to our defense. Our defense was incredible. Our defenders hardly got beat all tournament."
The Quicksilver fell behind 2-0 in their game's first four or five minutes, and trailed 3-0 late in the first half when Laura Flynn scored for Juneau. The second half was fairly even, said JSC board member Rod Flynn, who coached the RipTide.
The XtraTufs lost in a defensive struggle. Juneau was missing top scorer Margaret Sekona, who can't play on Sunday because of religious reasons, and coach Tom Rutecki said the team couldn't generate much offense without Sekona in the lineup.
"The kids were fine with it, some of the parents didn't know what to think, but the kids were fine about it," Rutecki said of Sekona's absence. "Both teams played good defense. I was happy with it. I had a high-end referee from Northern California, who's reffed World Cup qualifiers, tell me after the game that he thought we were the most disciplined team our age he'd seen. He complimented our sportsmanship, and I was very happy about that."