Crimson Bears Girls Nip Falcons in Seniors Final Conference Soccer Match

    Juneau-Douglas junior Kyla Bentz (25) strikes a scoring shot while being marked by Thunder Mountain senior Sarah Heaton (24) during the Crimson Bears 2-1 win over the Falcons on Thursday at Falcons Field. (Klas Stolpe/KI

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau-Douglas High School Kalé and Thunder Mountain played their final conference game on Thursday with the Crimson Bears taking a 2-1 match from the Falcons on senior night at Falcons Field.

      This was the fourth game in the conference series between the two sides, and both coaches have had a mix of the players under their direction at some point in youth soccer development.

      “It was an exciting one,” Juneau-Douglas coach Matt Dusenberry said. “They all have been, all four. Good hard matches by both teams. Just the fact that we’ve coached them since they were little. Whether they go to JD or they go to TM has nothing to do with soccer in Juneau or our involvement with those kids.”

      The first half was well played with both sides getting shots in the cauldron of the box or from the corner, and counterattacking when regaining ball possession.

      Crimson Bears first half keeper senior Jenae Pusich and Falcons senior keeper Samantha Dilley each deflected shots and stymied attacks in 40 scoreless minutes.

      The first score of the game was 17 minutes into the second half.

      Crimson Bears senior Taylor Bentley centered a ball through to junior forward Kyla Bentz.

      Bentz was being marked by Falcons senior Sarah Heaton.

      The two were side-by-side on the ball until Bentz booted a shot from 20 yards out that went to the keeper’s right and to the back of the net.

      “It was really intense,” Bentz said. “I have had that same situation play over a million times in games and I finally finished strong and it was really great to see. And it was really good to see my teammates follow through.”

      Bentz and Heaton have grown up as both teammates and opponents.

      “She is super, super nice,” Bentz said. “I have played soccer with her for a while now. She is a great player in general. It is definitely hard. It is a tricky situation because you are trying to play your best and do what you’ve got to do for your team and be respectful of your friends and people you have grown up with your whole life. All in all it is a lot of fun to play with and against them. I have had a lot of fun the last three years with this team.”

      Heaton said Bentz is a difficult competitor playing hockey and soccer.

      “She’s very good at both of the sports that she does,” Heaton said. “I have really enjoyed playing against her and working hard and improving my defensive skills against her to help protect our goal and also try and keep her from shooting but she is definitely a really good competitor.”

      The Falcons tied the game at the 29 minute mark of the second half when the Crimson Bears were called for a hand ball.

      Falcons senior Ellie Knapp took the penalty kick, running at the ball and sending it to the left of Crimson Bears second half junior keeper Zuri DeJean who had dove to the right.

      “It was good,” Knapp commented. “I will say it did not go where it was supposed to go but it still worked out. Zuri is an amazing keeper and it was definitely a little nerve wracking, but it went well. I generally have a pretty good idea where I want to kick it. I have already taken a PK before and aimed for the corner, so I tried that but it ended up going more central.”

      The Crimson Bears took back the lead with a little over a minute remaining in the match.

      Juneau-Douglas’ Bentley maneuvered the ball across the center and struck a shot from 25 yards out that struck the crossbar and bounced high into the air above midfield 15 yards out.

    “I thought it was going to go,” Bentley said. “It was close. I was sad I didn’t get to score in my last game here, but I was glad I at least got to assist.”

      Crimson Bears freshman Cadence Plummer watched the ball rise up and as it started to float down she settled under it and headed a shot that bounced past the keeper for the game winner.

      “I don’t know, I didn’t really think I was going to score,” Plummer said. “I just headed it to just see if it would go in and it did and I was really happy.”

      Falcons coach John Newell said with the game tied 1-1 his team wanted to press.

    “I love how my team never gave up,” Newell said. “The last 15 minutes of the game we were pressing so we were kind of exposing ourselves. We knew we might give up a goal but we were trying to get the winning goal, we didn’t want to settle for a tie. It just didn’t work in our favor that time. This is the chance you take. When you lose a game like that in the last few seconds it is always disappointing. But our goal has always been to improve with each game because we are headed to state next week. That is where we are going to try and bring our ultimate games. The ones that really count. Of course every game against JD is fun to play and it is a hard fought match. We are both trying as hard as we can to win those games. But our team’s goal from the very beginning is what we do at state. That is what we are really looking forward to.”

      The Falcons honored seniors Heaton, Knapp, Dilley, Isabella Hanna, Isabelle Hansen, Ann Steinman, Macey Fuette and Kaylani Tupou before the game.

      It was also the final game in Juneau for Crimson Bears’ Bentley, Pusich, Jasmin Holst, Kate Debuse, Rachel Erben, Sandra Lamas, Sophie Thibodeau and Tatum Hines.

      When the game ended Crimson Bears coach Dusenberry ran onto the field, not just to congratulate his team but to give ‘high elbows’ to their opponents.

      “I think it is pretty prideful, and I think John would have the same case, that two of the stronger teams in the state are from Juneau and we both had a part in that,” Dusenberry said. “Both teams enjoy each others company and they love working hard and they love supporting each other and I think that bodes well for the city of Juneau.”

      Juneau-Douglas won the prior three conference games against Thunder Mountain 2-0, 3-2 and 3-0.

      “They were all close games,” Falcons coach Newell said. “We certainly could have got a goal or two in there. Tonight we had a ball or two pinging around inside their box. They (JD) had some good shots on goal but for the most part we kept them outside of our box. My team did what they were supposed to do, the goals just didn’t fall our way… again.”

      The Crimson Bears will be the number one seeded Southeast Conference team at the state tournament next weekend and the Falcons the number two.

      “Definitely TM is one of the better teams,” Bentley said from the Crimson Bears sideline. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we meet them in the championship game at state. It was exciting to beat them because they were coming for blood on their senior night and it was their last home game as well.”

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