Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - Welcome to the Taylor Bentley School of Soccer State Championships.
The Juneau-Douglas senior scored three goals, assisted on two others, broke a school record and guided the Crimson Bears to their third straight ASAA Soccer State Championship on Saturday at Anchorage’s Service High School.
The Crimson Bears ran past the Soldotna Stars 5-1 for the girls Division II title.
“I am very happy and sad at the same time,” an emotional Bentley said through tears after the match. “I’m sad my soccer career is over, but I am glad I at least got to win for my last time.”
Bentley was also named to her third straight All-State Tournament team.
Her two assists gave her 17 for the season, two more than her former teammate and Gatorade Player of the Year Malia Miller. And it was done in less games. Bentley also has the career assists record for JDHS, done in three seasons, one less than the scholarship soccer player Miller.
Juneau-Douglas won the inaugural DII soccer title in 2018 and repeated in 2019. In 2019 the Crimson Bears also defeated the Dimond Lynx during the season, the Lynx went on to win the DI state title.
The coronavirus pandemic prevented the Crimson Bears from playing last season, so let’s say the players took a “gap” year to learn more of their trade with Professor Bentley.
It showed Saturday as Bentley did everything but inflate the balls and chalk the field lines before the pitch action started.
“My teammates helped me,” Bentley said. “They hyped me up. They got me excited. I am very proud of our team.”
The Crimson Bears put three goals past the Soldotna keeper in the first 40 minutes.
Jasmin Holst scored the first goal with an assist by Bentley.
Bentley scored the second and third goals with assists on both by Holst.
In the second 40-minute half, Bentley scored on a penalty kick with 33 minutes remaining and Blake Plummer hit the final goal with 22 minutes left on a beautiful touch pass through a crowd of defenders by Bentley.
“This is fantastic,” Juneau-Douglas coach Matt Dusenberry said from the pitch. “The championship is fantastic but the fact that things have gotten better and the kids got to go on a trip that really felt normal to them. They actually got to eat in restaurants. They got to go to the mall.”
Dusenberry also broke down in tears.
“These are great kids. And I think Taylor showed she should be in the hat for Gatorade Player of the Year because she is a heck of a player and has been since freshman year,” he said.
Key to the Crimson Bears offensive play through the state tournament (beating Palmer 3-0 and Monroe 3-0), and through the season, was the back line of defense that seldom got to tuck the ball into its netted bed after a long pitch run but were crucial for the title results.
The Crimson Bears defense broke their own team record, and the state record, by only allowing four goals scored the entire season.
Senior Rachel Erben and juniors Sophia Pugh and Marina Lloyd limited the opposition to one goal through tourney play, along with senior keeper Jenae Pusich and junior keeper Zuri DeJean, who split the net duties for one half each per game.
Erben, Pugh and Lloyd commented together as they celebrated the title.
The trio said the key was trusting each other. Being friends. Playing together since middle school. Communication, having good chemistry and working together.
“And listening to the tips coach has for us,” Pugh said.
“Adapting,” Lloyd said.
“And getting a state title my senior year,” Erben screamed.
And the trio bounded off screaming “state champs” into a circle of defenders, middles and forwards who for the first time all tournament looked out of sorts.
Holst and Pugh joined Bentley on the All-State team, as did junior Blake Plummer. The team also won the Academic Award for highest grade point average
Plummer commented on how she approaches each game and winning the title with her sister, freshman Cadence Plummer.
“I like to go into every game, no matter if we are up, thinking it is zero to zero,” Plummer said. “Because you never know. If you get too calm, if you get too settled you never know when something can get snuck by you. So it is always zero to zero in my head until the end. And it was awesome to get a championship with my sister and she was able to play with me. It was good experience for her. I love having her. She has got a lot more confident and I am excited for what else is to come for her.”
The Plummer sisters found each other in the celebrations on the field, hugging tightly, letting go of the zero-to-zero thought process, letting themselves become overly excited.
Perhaps the ideal moment came when game time elapsed. When the defeated walked slowly off the pitch, and the victors reveled in the center.
“They deserve it,” a Stars’ player said. “Taylor deserves it…”
And the Crimson Bears raised Taylor Bentley onto their shoulders and carried her off the field.
TMHS Girls Take Third
The Thunder Mountain Falcons girls soccer team rebounded from their Friday 3-0 semifinal loss to Soldotna by topping Homer 2-0 in the consolation final to place third at the state soccer championships on Saturday in Anchorage.
Falcons freshman Kaidree Hartman scored the first goal, picking up a loose ball on the back post. Senior Bella Hanna scored the second goal from the top of the 18 yard box with an assist by junior Molly Brocious.
Senior Elizabeth Knapp and junior Kiah Dihle were selected to the All State Tournament team.
The Falcons also won the Team Academic Award for highest grade point average with a 3.88.