In this file photo from last week Juneau Douglas’s Peyton Wheeler (5) runs downfield with the ball during Juneau-Douglas and Kayhi’s 1-1 tie at Fawn Mountain. JDHS fell to Kenai in the state semifinals 2-0 on Friday. (Courtesy Photo / Christopher Mullen, Ketchikan Daily News)
The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears girls soccer team was thwarted in its repeat attempt for a state title in a 2-0 loss to Kenai, Friday, during the ASAA DII Soccer Championships at West Anchorage High School.
“They are a big, physical team,” JDHS coach Matt Dusenberry said. “Cadence (Plummer) spent a lot of time on the turf. They were physical.”
JDHS’ rotating front play from senior Mariah Kadinger, juniors Plummer, Ruby Rivas and Dominique King, sophomores Natalie Travis, Cerys Hudson, Milina Mazon and Lola Hines, and freshman Peyton Wheeler kept the majority of ball possession on the Crimson Bears side in the first half through the physical play of the Kardinals.
JDHS junior Dominique King ran onto a long pass and hit a soft shot straight into the Kenai keeper with 32 minutes remaining in the first half.
Wheeler had a shot on goal from the top of the box but again the ball lacked any real punch and was handled by Kenai with 19 minutes remaining.
Mazon and Plummer continued to pressure in the Kenai half, but the first 40 minutes were scoreless.
“The wind was a factor,” Dusenberry said. “Whoever had the wind had the advantage. We had the wind in the first half and it was almost all us and they had the wind in the second half and it was almost all them. The wind helped that first goal that they had. It just kind of helped it stay up and it just tucked in under the cross bar.”
That goal came five minutes into the second half as Kenai senior Chloe Goldsby lofted a shot just over the reach of JDHS keeper Brielle Jones for a 1-0 Kardinals lead.
Kenai put another corner into play with 36:43 left and the ball was headed out but the Kardinal put another shot high over the net.
Plummer earned a free kick at the 30:35 mark and Plummer set up from 15 yards out but Kenai cleared the ball and ran onto another attack.
Plummer went down with an injury with 29:36 left as she was involved in multiple marks from behind during the match.
“Cadence received quite a few kicks in the back of the calves and kept getting back up and fighting as hard as she could,” said Dusenberry. “She still had a great game. And Natalie (Wheeler) has been solid this tournament too.”
JDHS’ King received a yellow card with 25 left, but Kenai couldn’t capitalize and JDHS keeper Jones stopped another shot with 19 minutes left.
Kenai earned a corner with 16 minutes remaining and a Kardinal head was batted about and a kick went high and out.
Kenai had another shot on goal that JDHS keeper touched out but possession remained with the Kardinals.
JDHS earned a throw in with 13 minutes remaining and moved the ball to their own side of the pitch, controlling for throw ins as they worked for a shot.
The Crimson Bears had a side kick fielded by the Kenai keeper and the Kardinals switched sides of the field, earning a shot from 10 yards out that went just right of the post.
The Kardinals had another chance with 7 minutes remaining but JDHS keeper Jones covered.
The Crimson Bears earned a throw in at midfield with four minutes left and Plummer worked the left side but Kenai marked across the pitch and deflected play.
JDHS again earned the throw in and Wheeler passed into Adelyn Buss but Kenai broke the play and turned the field setting up a missed shot with under two minutes to play. The rebound was out in front of the JDHS net and Kenai attempted another shot but Rivas blocked it in field.
Dusenberry would give the team’s Hard Hat Award after the match to Rivas and Buss for their work against Kenai’s top player, junior Kylee Verkuilen.
“She’s a heck of a player,” Dusenberry said. “And they battled, both of them, throughout the whole match and made it difficult for her throughout the game.”
The Kardinal had a final shot on goal in stoppage time and JDHS couldn’t flip the field.
Kenai found the ball in play in front of the JDHS net and senior Rylie Sparks put in the 2-0 final.
“In these kind of games you have to have a result to even extend the game,” Dusenberry said. “We kind of made ourselves vulnerable with the hope of being able to maybe put another body up top, which is what I did. I wouldn’t say they knew it was a way they could attack but that was where they ended up having a little bit of success in the final minutes. I added an extra player on top to hopefully extend the game, get a goal in and at least go into overtime.”
Kenai advances to the state championship game against No. 2 seed Soldotna, a 4-3 winner over No. 3 seed North Pole.
“I think the kids, with the history of the program the last few years, were thinking we were going to be in the final again and there were a lot of emotions after the game,” Dusenberry said. “But they have nothing to hang their heads about because they fought hard all the way to the end and played a tough team. That game could easily have gone the other way. I didn’t feel like we got out played. We had opportunities, they had opportunities, sometimes that is the way the game goes.”
JDHS will play in the consolation round for third/fifth place at 9 a.m. Saturday against North Pole.
“The last time we played North Pole it was a tie,” said Dusenberry. “So somebody gets to walk away with some kind of result tomorrow morning.”
• Contact Klas Stolpe at [email protected].