High School Sports

Alaska girls high school soccer powers embark on 2024 season with high expectations

After coming up short in the previous three Division I state finals against rival and perennial powerhouse Dimond High, the South Anchorage girls soccer team finally got over the hump last spring by claiming the 2023 championship.

The Wolverines graduated three key seniors from last year’s state championship team, including captain Madison McDonald. However, with so much continuity elsewhere on the roster, the team is confident in its ability to mount a strong title-defending campaign.

“We’re returning a lot and we have a good freshmen core that came in, so I’m excited about the group,” South coach Lauren Lux said.

One of the returning players who’s already taken on a more prominent role through the team’s first two games is sophomore Addysen Gasser.

“It’s really cool to see how strongly she has come into this season,” Lux said. “I’m really excited to see what her sophomore season is going to be.”

Gasser didn’t score her first high school goal until the final game of her freshman season, in last year’s state championship. Now, she’s light years ahead of that pace with six goals already this season, including four in South’s season-opening blowout of Eagle River and two in a shutout victory over Service on Saturday.

Gasser isn’t the only player who Lux expects to take on more responsibility on and off the pitch.


“We have a good core of senior leadership and veteran leadership, and we have a lot of good attacking players who are getting bigger roles than they had last season,” she said.

The Wolverines don’t feel any additional pressure being the defending state champions because they have “very high expectations” for themselves and expect to get their opponents’ best when they take the field.

“I think the group is ready to work for those and fulfill them,” Lux said. “We have a really strong and talented group. It’s early, so we’ll continue to grow over the next couple of games but especially when we get outside for training.”

The first matchup of the season between South and Dimond is scheduled for 2:50 p.m. Wednesday at The Dome sports complex.

Both teams are highly motivated heading into the intense rivalry game Lux characterizes as a “marquee matchup every year.”

“This is our first go at each other so I’m excited for it,” she said.

Aside from Dimond, Lux believes some of their stiffer competition will come from outside the conference.

“We had a tough playoff game last year against West Valley,” she said. “They gave us a run for our money and we had to change some things to be able to get a result. Nonconference opponents can give us some surprises and can push and stretch us in ways we didn’t see during the regular season.”

Lynx are back on the prowl and aiming to return to the top spot

Coming up short of a four-peat in last year’s state finals, Dimond is highly motivated to return to the state title game.

“Hopefully we’ll get that opportunity again and come out with a different result,” Dimond head coach Will Lucero said. “We’re not taking any opponent lightly this year and we’re just going to play our game and concentrate on us.”

The Lynx are off to a sizzling 2-0 start to their 2024 campaign, blowing out their first two opponents by double digits.

“I think everyone is excited for the new season with some new players, but I think everyone is starting to settle in,” junior Ayla Ertekin said. “Everybody knows we have to take the intensity up every game and we can’t drop it no matter the score, and each game we have to start fresh.”

The team spent a lot of time in the offseason working on ball distribution and getting the right shots on goal instead of trying to force or rush a scoring opportunity. In their season-opening win over West, they saw the fruits of their labor as both Ertekin and senior Mai Mateaki pulled off hat tricks with a combined seven goals between them.

“I was very happy with the team performance overall, and we were able to spring Mai and Ayla at the right times to find the right goals,” Lucero said.

In his second year at the helm of the program, Lucero believes the team is much more comfortable with the system he instituted last year, which emphasizes more passing.

“It’s all about the ball movement and keeping the discipline,” he said. “To stay in shape, maintain ourselves throughout a game, and create those goal-scoring opportunities.”

Despite losing 2023 Gatorade Player of the Year Tatum Porter to graduation last spring, the Lynx still remain loaded with talent.


“We have other players waiting in the shadows to possibly be another GPOY for Dimond,” Lucero said. “We’ve got Mai, Ayla, and we’ve got some players like Parker (Sullivan), who is up there.”

Both Ertekin and Lucero view Service as a potential contender and formidable opponent in their quest to return to the top spot, but they aren’t overlooking anyone this year.

“All it takes is one goal to win a game sometimes,” he said.

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.