South capped an undefeated season with a 1-0 victory over Service in the girls state soccer championship Saturday at Anchorage Football Stadium.
Kayla Sims got a header past Service keeper Brianna Linnell with about 12 minutes left in the first half for the undefeated Wolverines, who finished the season 20-0-1.
The last match was the toughest challenge of the season, said South's Erin Stuart, who set up the match's only goal.
"It's difficult being the undefeated team," she said. "We had everything to lose."
The victory earned the Wolverines their third state championship in four years and their fourth since the south Anchorage school opened its doors in 2004.
Stuart sent in a free kick from the right and the 5-foot-9 Sims was able to outleap the Cougars to the ball. Stuart said she had confidence her team would win the ball.
"We're good in the air," she said.
Service's Madasin Jennings nearly tied the match when she nailed the crossbar less than four minutes into the second half during sustained pressure from the Cougars.
The Cougars almost forced extra time when a shot from Siri Parker caught the bottom of the crossbar with less than five minutes to play, but the ball stayed out of the net.
"Service outplayed us for a little bit there," Stuart said. "They never gave up."
Though he despises the word "unlucky," that's how Cougars coach Mark Cascolan felt after his team finished as the state runner-up for the second straight year. A year ago, Dimond beat Service 3-1 in the championship match.
"Today, we were pretty unlucky," he said. "But, there can only be one champion."
Cascolan said his team gained valuable experience, and with just one senior -- Mariah Williams -- Service should be strong again next year.
"It's not losing, it's learning," he said.
After taking the lead, South switched its configuration and added a defender to limit the Cougars' offensive chances, Sims said.
She attributed South's undefeated season to the team's focus on conditioning and technique. That same hard work helped the Wolverines defeat Soldotna in a Friday semifinal match that went to extra time, and then come back Saturday and outlast Service.
"Our coach told us no state game is going to be easy," Sims said.
Reach Mike Nesper at email@example.com or 257-4335
Erin Stuart, South
Madison Jungwirth, South
Kayla Sims, South
Abigail Osgood, South
Haleigh Van Allen, Service
Brianna Linnel, Service
Madasin Jennings, Service
Zoe Bailey, Service
Taryn McCubbins, Soldotna,
Katelynn Kerkvliet, Soldotna
Malia Lyken, Dimond
Erica Heil, Dimond
Kylie Morse, Kenai
Karli Fitzgerald, Lathrop
By MIKE NESPER