All six of Anchorage's south-side teams begin their quest for a state soccer title Thursday.
That should come as no surprise to anyone who follows prep soccer in Alaska.
Service, Dimond or South have played for a girls state championship in all but three title matches since soccer debuted as a high school sport in 1982. The last time a south Anchorage team wasn't in the girls finals was 1993.
Service is largely responsible for the south side's reign in girls soccer, thanks to a pair of impressive unbeaten streaks of 77 and 93 matches during the mid-1980s and '90s. The Cougars have played in 22 state title matches and have won 17 of them. They were last season's runner-up.
The boys squads from the south side haven't been as dominant as the girls, but in recent years the Lynx, Cougars and Wolverines have been fixtures in state title matches. South High in particular.
The defending state champions have played for a state title seven times since 2005, winning five. And you have to go back 14 years to find a boys championship match that didn't feature a team from south Anchorage.
Dimond, South and Service have won two girls titles apiece in the past six years -- with three all-south-side championships during that time.
Dimond is the defending girls champion, but South enters the tournament as the top Cook Inlet Conference seed after going 17-0-1 this season (13-0-1 CIC). In a rematch of last year's championship, Dimond and Service square off in Thursday's opening round -- the result of a blind draw used to determine the bracket.
"That's what makes a blind draw a bit exciting," Cougars coach Mark Cascolan said.
Dimond and Service split in their two meetings this season, and Cascolan is expecting a strong effort from the Lynx, who are coached by his former assistant, Cari Gill.
That's the only all-Anchorage first-round match, but Dimond and South could meet in one of Friday's boys semifinal matches.
Both squads are undefeated in conference play -- Dimond is 12-0-2 and South is 10-0-4 -- and they tied in two meetings this year, including a 1-1 draw in Saturday's season finale.
But first Dimond must get past a Juneau team that's just as familiar with state championships as the southside trio. Since 2000, the Crimson Bears have played for a state title 11 times, winning five, most recently in 2011.
No one is guaranteed to make the semifinals thanks to a strong boys field, South coach Mike Montgomery said.
"There's not any easy first-round games," he said. "All eight teams deserve to be there."
In a sport where one penalty kick can change the outcome of a match, Montgomery isn't making any predictions. Every team in the tournament has a chance, he said.
Depth and teamwork makes Dimond a strong contender, coach Barat Killian said. "We're training with the right kind of intensity," he said.
Dimond boasts Alaska's Gatorade Player of the Year, Jack Sedor. The junior midfielder has nine goals and 16 assists this season and is one of four first-team all-conference selections from Dimond.
Chugiak's Holly Brehmer is the girls Gatorade Player of the Year with 24 goals and 12 assists. A recent graduate, Brehmer finished her high school career with 48 goals and 32 assists and will play for Oklahoma State's NCAA Division I program in the fall.
A strong defense has led the South girls to an undefeated season, and it will be critical this week as the Wolverines attempt to win their third state title in four years, coach Brian Farrell said.
Expect a defense-dominated tournament all around, he said, because scoring opportunities are limited at state. "You're not gonna get a hundred chances a game," Farrell said.
Reach Mike Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
All-Cook Inlet Conference soccer teams
Goalkeepers -- Roberto Heredia, West; Lucas Newman, South. Defenders -- Brady Graff, Service; Daniel Ogden, Chugiak; Brent Quinn, Dimond; Ryan Suckow, Eagle River. Midfielders -- Paul Matyas, East; Brady Sanders, Chugiak; Jack Sedor, Dimond; Johnny Yoon, Service. Forwards -- Chase Alexander, Bartlett; Cole Fox, Dimond; Muharem Selimi, Service; Wesley Chien, South. Utility -- Brendan Doyle, West; Joao Gomes, Bartlett; Micah Rickard, Dimond; Taylor Zietlow, South.
Goalkeepers -- Jacob Andrews, Service; Daylan Barganier, Bartlett. Defenders -- Josh An, Dimond; Malcom Dunbar, Bartlett; Peter Moma, West; Luke Twenhafel, South. Midfielders -- Lorenzo Froehle, Bartlett; Blake Hepler, South; Colin O'Hare, Dimond; Paul Shin, West. Forwards -- Azzam Azzam, Service; Matthew Cerveny, Dimond; Jesus Esquivel, West; Jake Temple, Bartlett. Utility -- Ger Lee, Bartlett; Dylan Nolder, Dimond; Nigel Ruckhaus, Service; Lucas Wagner, East.
Goalkeepers -- Tara Fisher, Eagle River; Mia Kaiser, West. Defenders -- Erica Heil, Dimond; Keeley Jelinek, South; Mariah Williams, Service; Erin Stuart, South. Midfielders -- Kelsey Eagle, Dimond; Zoe Bailey, Service; Holly Brehmer, Chugiak; Grace Woern, East. Forwards -- Kayla Sims, South; Megan Currier, South; Haleigh Van Allen, Service; Malia Lyken, Dimond. Utility -- Maya McPherson, West; Danielle VanOrd, Bartlett; Leah Swiss, Dimond; Carolyn Kinzie, Service.
Goalkeepers -- Katelyn Sweeney, Dimond; Brianna Linnell, Service. Defenders -- Julia Miknich, Service; Abby Stahl, Dimond; Grace Connelly, South; Megan Matyas, West. Midfielders -- Madison Jungwirth, South; Anna Sophia-Roberts, West; Callie Orzotti, South; Mallory Garbe, Eagle River. Forwards -- Rosie Rush, West; Madasin Jennings, Service; Emma Ostberg, Dimond; Kerianne Hansen, Service. Utility -- Vanessa Velez, South; Hannah Andress, South; Molly Romero, Chugiak; Flurina Boslough, West.
ASAA/1st National Bank
State soccer championships
Thursday’s first round
1 p.m. — Dimond vs. Service, Anchorage Football Stadium
1 p.m. — Soldotna vs. Lathrop, Eagle River
5 p.m. — Wasilla vs. Kenai, AFS
5 p.m. — Thunder Mountain vs. South, Eagle River
3 p.m. — South vs. West Valley, AFS
3 p.m. — Wasilla vs. Colony, Eagle River
7 p.m. — Dimond vs. Juneau, AFS
7 p.m. — Service vs. Homer, Eagle River
By MIKE NESPER