The Juneau-Douglas girls soccer program is no stranger to the Division II state tournament, given that the Crimson Bears have won the title every year since its inception in 2018.
However, this year’s team had next to no playoff experience outside of a few holdovers from last year heading into their first-round matchup with Homer on Thursday.
Fortunately for the Crimson Bears, one of those returners was junior midfielder Cadence Plummer. Her three-goal hat trick helped lead them to a 4-0 victory over the Mariners as Juneau-Douglas recovered from a slow start and pulled away in the second half.
“Our entire team is almost completely new, so it was really nerve-wracking for everyone because they’ve never been to the state tournament before,” Plummer said. “We settled in nicely in the second half and played like we usually do.”
She scored the only goal in the first half and sparked a scoring frenzy early in the second half: Her second goal was quickly followed by one from freshman Peyton Wheeler a little over a minute later.
“You could almost see the tension on their shoulders go away,” Juneau-Douglas head coach Matt Dusenberry said. “We came out with nerves despite talking about just playing the game, and there’s nothing special you need to do, but they settled down in the second half and started to relax even more.”
Plummer would complete her hat trick with just under 10 minutes left to play and nearly scored a fourth goal, but Homer’s backup goalie made a great leaping save to prevent the ball from finding the back of the net.
“I definitely love scoring a lot, and I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” she said.
While this didn’t mark her first time scoring three or more goals in a game this season, it was her first time accomplishing the feat at the state tournament.
“I was nervous at first, but I’m glad we all pulled it together in the second half and put a lot of goals in,” Plummer said.
Her older sister Blake Plummer was one of the star players on last year’s team and currently plays at Peninsula College. She only got to play three seasons of high school soccer due to the pandemic.
Dusenberry said that Cadence is aiming to surpass her sibling and former teammate in most goals scored and is encroaching on that mark with at least two more games left to play.
“They’re really close in career goals, and she doesn’t want her sister to hang it over her head that ‘You got to do it in four,’” he said. “We’ll see during the rest of the tournament if she’ll get one or two more and maybe nip her sister.”
As the only returning starter from last year’s title-winning team, Plummer felt responsible for setting an example and leading with her actions and poise to officially begin their title defense.
“I felt like it was my responsibility to show them how you’re supposed to act during the state tournament, and I wanted to show them that it’s not different from any other game,” Plummer said. “You just play your best and that’s all you can hope for.”
Dusenberry was happy to see the contributions from all of his players who stepped up in the second half. The coaching staff has a hard-hat award that they give out at the end of each game to a player that “came to work and put in the effort.”
“We could’ve easily given it to several different players,” Dusenberry said.
In other DII girls action, the higher seeds advanced in each game as No. 1 Kenai Central, No. 2 Soldotna and No. 3 North Pole each won. Juneau-Douglas will play Kenai Central in Friday’s semifinals at 1 p.m. at West. In DII boys, No. 1 Juneau-Douglas, No. 3 Soldotna, No. 4 Ketchikan and No. 2 Palmer all won.
Dimond girls pull away from West in second half
Three-time defending Division I state champion Dimond had to shake off a slow start as well on a rainy afternoon, and similarly to Juneau-Douglas, the Lynx managed just one goal in the first half and pulled away early in the second for a 3-0 victory.
“It’s the state cup and anything can happen, so we’re going to take it one game at a time and are looking forward to the next one,” Dimond head coach Will Lucero said.
Even though they have a solid core of returners, Lucero said his team also suffered from first-half, first-game jitters but recovered in the second half to distance themselves from their lower-seeded opponent.
“Everyone had that fear of failure,” he said. “That kind of makes them play a little timid, but at halftime we had a restart and got back into the groove of where we’re at as a team and what brought us here.”
All three of the Dimond goals came from different players. Senior striker Tatum Porter received player of the game honors after scoring a goal and assisting on another.
“She manages this team for me on the field and with her leadership, she demands it,” Lucero said.
In other Division I girls action, No. 6 West Valley provided the upset of the day, besting No. 3 Chugiak 1-0. Powerhouses South earned a shutout to advance to Friday’s semifinals and Lathrop edged South 2-1.
In Division I boys, top seed Colony cruised past Chugiak 4-0 and West Valley beat Lathrop 2-0 in a battle of Fairbanks teams. South beat Dimond 3-0, and in the night’s final game West topped Service 3-1.
Division I girls soccer state tournament in Anchorage
at West, Service and South
No. 6 West Valley 1, No. 3 Chugiak 0
No. 1 Dimond 3, No. 8 West 0
No. 2 South 6, No. 7 Wasilla 0
No. 5 Lathrop 2, No. 4 Service 1
West vs. Service, 9 a.m. at West
Chugiak vs. Wasilla, 9 a.m. at Service
Dimond vs. Lathrop, 5 p.m. at West
West Valley vs. South, 5 p.m. at Service
4th/6th place, 11:30 a.m. at South
3rd/5th place, 11:30 a.m. at Service
Championship, 4:30 p.m. at West
Division I boys soccer state tournament
No. 3 West Valley 2, No. 6 Lathrop 0
No. 1 Colony 4, No. 8 Chugiak 0
No. 2 South 3, No. 7 Dimond 0
No. 5 West 3, No. 4 Service 1
Chugiak vs. Service, 11 a.m. at West
Lathrop vs. Dimond, 11 a.m. at Service
Colony vs. West, 7 p.m. at West
West Valley vs. South, 7 p.m. at Service
4th/6th place, 1:15 p.m. at South
3rd/5th place, 1:15 p.m. at Service
Championship, 6:30 p.m. at West
Division II girls soccer state tournament
No. 3 North Pole 4, No. 6 Grace Christian 2
No. 1 Kenai Central 10, No. 8 Nikiski 0
No. 2 Soldotna 3, No. 7 Houston 1
No. 4 Juneau-Douglas 4, No. 5 Homer 0
Nikiski vs. Homer, 9 a.m. at South
Grace Christian vs. Houston, 1 p.m. at South
Kenai Central vs. Juneau-Douglas, 1 p.m. at West
North Pole vs. Soldotna, 1 p.m. at Service
4th/6th place, 8 a.m. at Service
3rd/5th place, 9 a.m. at West
Championship, 11:30 a.m. at West
Division II boys soccer state tournament
No. 4 Ketchikan 1, No. 5 Kenai Central 0
No. 3 Soldotna 2, No. 6 Grace Christian 0
No. 1 Juneau-Douglas 4, No. 8 Homer 0
No. 2 Palmer 3, No. 7 North Pole 2
Homer vs. Kenai Central, 11 a.m. at South
Grace Christian vs. North Pole, 3 p.m. at South
Juneau-Douglas vs. Ketchikan, 3 p.m. at West
Soldotna vs. Palmer, 3 p.m. at Service
4th/6th, 9:45 a.m. at South
3rd/5th, 9:45 a.m. at Service
Championship, 1:30 p.m. at West