High School Sports

Both South soccer teams advance to Division I state finals to set stage for regular-season rematches

Many high school soccer coaches would be fortunate to have just one team make it to the state championship game in a given year. Brian Lux considers himself to blessed to have two after leading the South Anchorage High boys and girls teams to their respective Division I title games after earning victories Friday.

“I’m lucky enough to be a part of the girls program as well,” he said Friday. “They did really well today and the boys gave great effort tonight, and we get to do it all again tomorrow. That’s what we train all season for.”

While both semifinal games started out the same with scoreless first halves, they didn’t follow the same script in their respective second halves.

The girls found their footing and scored three unanswered goals to beat West Valley 3-0 while the boys also faced off with the Wolfpack but were pushed to the brink before ultimately prevailing in a 1-0 overtime victory.

All three of the Wolverines’ goals in the girls game came courtesy of freshman Brianna Bailey, who pulled off an impressive hat trick in the second round of her first state tournament.

“We were just really excited and we kind of settled in during the second half and found our game,” Bailey said. “We passed around, connected, and scored off of it.”

Lux took over for the Wolverines girls team after his wife, Lauren, stepped down from the head coach position. She’s still involved as an assistant.

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The weather played a major factor in the boys game as fierce winds swirled, making it nearly impossible for either team to get into a consistent rhythm or game flow.

“It kind of killed the game,” Lux said. “Long balls with (the wind) went out of bounds, kicking anything into (the wind) always ends up short. Eventually we figured it out how to keep the ball on the ground, created some chances, and finally got one to go in.”

With less than four minutes left in the second half of the overtime period, South junior Jack Hickox scored the first and only goal of the game.

“The wind made it very difficult to play get passes going but we just kept pushing and eventually got one,” he said. “I drifted up to the top and (Elijah Pediangco) laid a nice ball over the defender and I was just happy it was on target.”

Both Wolverines soccer squads will face off against a familiar foe for the third time this year in the state title game on Saturday. The reigning state champion boys team will take on top-seeded Colony and the girls will take on longtime rival Dimond for the fourth straight state finals. Each of them split with the team that they will be facing during the regular season.

“We talked all season with the boys that the goal was to go get the ninth star on our jersey and repeat as state champions,” Lux said. “The girls have been trying. Dimond has been a great rival the past three or four years and they’ve had the better of it, but I think both our teams have a great chance to come away as champs.”

The Knights prevented a repeat of last year’s boys state title match by beating fifth-seeded West 3-2 in overtime while the three-time defending state champion Lynx took care of business against the Lathrop girls squad in a 3-0 shutout victory.

Juneau-Douglas boys advance while girls have state title streak snapped

In Division II action, only one of the two teams from Alaska’s capital city will get a chance to repeat as state champions.

Since the inception of the two different divisions for state soccer based on student enrollment in 2018, the Juneau-Douglas girls team have won each of the last four Division II state championships.

That streak officially came to an end on Friday afternoon when the Crimson Bears suffered their first loss to an in-state opponent at the hands of top-seeded Kenai Central, which remained undefeated and improved to 18-0 on their year with a 2-0 victory over the defending champions.

The Kardinals will take on second-seeded Soldotna in the finals, a team they’ve already beaten in three shutouts during the regular season. The Stars edged out third-seeded North Pole 4-3 in a tight semifinal bout on Friday afternoon.

On the boys side, the Crimson Bears scored both of their goals in the first half and kept the fourth-seeded Ketchikan Kings off the scoreboard in both halves to notch their second straight shutout victory 2-0.

“Ketchikan plays hard, they have some strong players, they play smart and are not an easy team to beat,” Juneau-Douglas boys coach Gary Lehnhart said. “We had to work hard and we played well today.”

Their first goal came with just under 20 minutes until halftime from sophomore Ahmir Parker and the second with around nine and half minutes left in the first half from junior Xavier Melancon.

“In the start we wanted to get them on their heels,” Melancon said. “They’re a very good offensive team so we wanted to push.”

He was able to knock the ball in with his knee off a deflection on a set piece play, which earned him the championship belt award given to players for scoring in those specific situations that they spend a lot of time practicing.

“I was just trying to use anything to get the ball into the net,” Melancon said. “I used my knee and kind of powered it into the side of the net.”

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In the title game, Juneau-Douglas will face off with Soldotna, which is coming off 2-1 win over second-seeded Palmer.

Division I girls soccer state tournament

First round

Thursday

No. 6 West Valley 6, 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

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Friday

Consolation

Service 2, West 0

Wasilla 3, Chugiak 1

Semifinals

Dimond 3, Lathrop 0

South 3, West Valley 0

4th/6th place, Service vs. Wasilla, 11:30 a.m. at South

3rd/5th place, Lathrop vs. West Valley 11:30 a.m. at Service

Championship, Dimond vs. South 4:30 p.m. at West

Division I boys soccer state tournament

First round

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Thursday

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

Friday

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Consolation

Service 2, Chugiak 0

Lathrop 5, Dimond 2

Semifinals

Colony 3, West 2 (OT)

South 1, West Valley 0 (OT)

Saturday

4th/6th place, Service vs. Lathrop, 1:15 p.m. at South

3rd/5th place, West vs. West Valley 1:15 p.m. at Service

Championship, Colony vs. South 6:30 p.m. at West

Division II girls soccer state tournament

First round

Thursday

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

Friday

Consolation

Homer 2, Nikiski 0

Grace Christian 4, Houston 2

Semifinals

Kenai Central 2, Juneau-Douglas 0

Soldotna 4, North Pole 3

Saturday

4th/6th place, Grace Christian vs. Homer, 8 a.m. at Service

3rd/5th place, North Pole vs. Juneau-Douglas, 9 a.m. at West

Championship, Kenai Central vs. Soldotna, 11:30 a.m. at West

Division II boys soccer state tournament

First round

Thursday

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

Friday

Consolation

Kenai Central 2, Homer 0

Grace Christian 4, North Pole 3

Semifinals

Juneau-Douglas 2, Ketchikan 0

Soldotna 2, Palmer 0

Saturday

4th/6th, Kenai Central vs. Grace Christian, 9:45 a.m. at South

3rd/5th, Ketchikan vs. Palmer, 9:45 a.m. at Service

Championship, Juneau-Douglas vs. Soldotna, 1:30 p.m. at West

Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

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