Young soccer players converged at the Dimond Park Fieldhouse Saturday in freezing conditions to test their soccer skills and compete in the first day of the Juneau Holiday Cup.
Saturday's games featured teams from the elementary, middle school and junior divisions, with ages ranging between 9 and 16 years old.
The Juneau Holiday Cup, which runs Dec. 20-31, is a free soccer tournament for youth and adults, with 36 teams in five divisions competing. All teams are co-ed and tournament rules require at least three men and three women to be on the field all times.
The tournament, now in its 16th year, has become a tradition for players such as Juneau-Douglas High School junior mid-fielder Monica Ord, who started playing in the holiday cup when she was 9 years old.
"I always looked forward to it," she said. "We would purposely not go on vacations during winter break so we could play in the Holiday Cup."
Players from the JDHS boys and girls soccer teams volunteered as referees and sold concessions during the tournament to raise funds for the their teams' travel expenses.
Also among this year's volunteers was soccer mom Susan Murray, who is coaching the Flying Penguins, her son's team.
"I've been involved with soccer because my children are both soccer players," Murray said. "They have played Holiday Cup for several years in a row. It's just a great community event. We would very much like to thank Dillion and Findley (law firm) for putting this on. They cover all the expenses. This is wonderful to see the community come out and do this."
JDHS boys soccer coach Gary Lehnhart has attended the tournament since it started in 1992 and since has watched it grow into a community event.
"At the beginning, it was just a way to get people together during the holidays," Lehnhart said. "It has truly turned into one of the more significant community events during the (Christmas) break."
The early years of the tournament had only four teams. As players came back every year the tournament added age brackets to accommodate older player, many of whom started out playing elementary school and are now participating as adults. Lehnhart's sons play in the elementary and middle school divisions, and his two daughters hoem from college also will play in the tournament.
Lehnhart praised tournament director Leslie Houston with the tournaments growth, saying she has been the "base of the tournament for a long time."
The tournaments new location at the Diamond Park Field House means there is more room for spectators.
There is no charge to attend the games and fans will be able to watch the championship games from the second floor running track that circles the field.
Visit www.juneauholidaycup.com for information about game times.
Erik Stimpfle is a writer living in Juneau. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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