As they rolled through the soccer season undefeated, the Dimond girls nonetheless knew a couple reasons to embrace humility.
The Lynx recalled they were a stacked club last season too, and all it got them was a semifinal defeat to South on penalty kicks at the state tournament. Under first-year coach and Lynx alumni Carolyn Savage, Dimond this season also employed a social media policy that preached caution over cockiness -- no posting in the first 24 hours after a match.
"A lot of things can be misconstrued -- I told them 'Be humble, be supportive of other teams,' '' Savage said.
Also, she was dealing with 22 teenagers.
Still, even when it was OK to crow -- Savage said the social media policy became moot after Dimond seized the state title Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Service -- the Lynx proved as modest as they were masterful.
When the final whistle blew beneath blue skies and sunshine at Chugiak's Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium, the Lynx did not immediately whoop and holler. They gathered in a circle of hugs near their bench and were largely subdued -- until a few players emptied their water bottles on Savage, and senior midfielder Leah Swiss let out screams of joy and her teammates raised their collective pitch, well, on the pitch.
"We didn't want to lose, and we didn't want to get cocky,'' said senior midfielder Madison Richards. "We always knew we could easily lose. We could easily choke, because it happens all the time.
"Everybody was gunning for us. Carolyn said, 'Everybody wants you to lose, you're a target.' That just made us want to win even more.''
And Saturday, they got to work on capping an undefeated season (17-0-0) in about the time it takes Usain Bolt to cover 200 meters -- 19 seconds and change.
Richards fed the ball over the Service defense, Aaliyah Lewis raced onto the ball, dribbled closer to goal and unleashed a left-footed blast into the right corner of the goal to generate a 1-0 lead.
That was a refreshing opening sequence for the Lynx, who started slowly in both their first-round, 3-1 overtime defeat of South and their 2-0 semifinal win against Soldotna.
"As soon as I saw her open up to make that pass, I took off and ran onto the ball,'' Lewis said. "First thought: 'Do not mess this up.' I looked at where the keeper was and put it where she wasn't.''
"It was an amazing feeling. We came prepared. We came ready.''
Against a Cougar club that is talented and exceedingly young -- 16 of 21 players are freshmen or sophomores -- Dimond stretched its lead to 2-0 in the 35th minute on another goal from Aaliyah Lewis.
In a beautiful sequence from build-up to finish, Richards made a pivoting move to buy time and space in her defensive half and delivered the ball to freshman midfielder Erica Heil on the right flank. Heil centered the ball forward to Lewis in the middle, and Lewis dribbled in and used her left foot to crank in another goal.
Ariela Lewis stamped victory for Dimond in the 59th minute when she took a pass from her twin, Aaliyah, knifed through defenders sandwiching her and drilled a 15-yarder for a 3-0 cushion.
The victory again illustrated Dimond's depth, from starting goalkeeper Katelyn Sweeney up to the forwards. The back line anchored by senior Bobbye Pendleton. The midfield, which included senior Elizabeth Gogolowski, controlled play and seldom allowed the Cougars to gain rhythm. And the Lewis sisters know how to finish.
"We had all the right players,'' Richards said. "We just had to get three wins.''
Savage emptied her bench in the late going, and Sweeney's back-up, Ruth Ann Lomu, made a startling leg save on Service's Jesslin Wooliver minutes before Wooliver scored in the waning minutes.
Service (11-5-2) loses just four seniors, and its young squad should be a force in coming seasons.
"I thought we made some inexperienced decisions, or decisions that showed our inexperience,'' said Cougars coach Mark Cascolan. "But, for the most part, we showed we can play with them.''
For Dimond's seven seniors -- Richards, the Lewis sisters, Johanna Jeffreys, Haley Martin, Pendleton and Gogolowski -- Saturday marked a fitting end to their high school careers, which were bookended by state championships. The Lynx won in 2010, when Gogolowski's goal furnished a 1-0 title victory over Service.
In the end, though, Dimond remained humble.
"Service is a quality team and put up a great match,'' Aaliyah Lewis said. "Nothing but respect for them.''
Soldotna 3, Colony 2
Behind two goals from Miranda Wolfe, Soldotna took third place with a 3-2 win over Colony.
Kelci Benson also scored for Soldotna.
Peyton Johnstone and Rebecca Mackey scored goals for Colony.
South 6, West Valley 1
Two-time defending state champion South, powered by Morgan Hooe's hat trick, earned fourth place Saturday with a 6-1 win over West Valley.
The Wolverines also received goals from Hannah Andress, Cydney Lagomarsino and Shelby Woolston.
Maddison Ackiss scored for the Wolfpack.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY