May 25—It's been four years since the Colony boys soccer team won a Division I title, but the top-seeded Knights are hoping to reverse their fortunes this week at the state tournament.
"Our season has been great," head coach Jeremy Johnson said. "The boys have been working really hard, playing well, and the bounces have gone our way."
He's been at the helm of the program for 29 years, and in his almost three decades on the job, Colony has claimed three state championships, with the last one coming in 2019. The previous two titles were earned in 2014 and 2000.
As impressive as their overall 17-1-1 record is, it's been far from smooth sailing for the Knights over the course of the season with their lone loss coming at the hands of reigning state champion South Anchorage.
"We've had a couple of tough matches," Johnson said. "Obviously we lost the one to South and we had a really close one with them here and we beat them in Colony."
The Knights' lone tie came back in late April when they hosted West Valley and played to a low-scoring 1-1 stalemate.
"We tied them at home and beat them by one up in Fairbanks," Johnson said. "That was another tough one along with Service and West, all the usual suspects."
He believes there is a lot of parity at the Division I level around the state and that "everybody's got a shot" to contend for a title this year.
[Juneau-Douglas soccer teams are prepared to defend their Division II state titles]
His team has been one of the most consistent in the state, but they haven't been blowing out opponents on a regularly basis. Instead, they've been grinding out victories, and Johnson feels like they are battle-tested and ready to make a run at a title.
"The boys feel good about it and we feel good about it, but as we all know, anything can happen when you get to that state tournament," he said.
Some of the Knights' core players who have been key to their success include senior and leading scorer David Elliott, senior team captain Zac Cheyette, junior center backs Tyler Swartz and Matthew Crawford and senior goalkeeper Brendan Heck.
"We feel like we've got a good spine right down the middle and get good midfield play, solid defensive play, a good guy on top to score and a good guy in the back to stop it," Johnson said.
Although the defeat they suffered on the road to the Wolverines spoiled their chances of finishing the regular season undefeated, the team is looking at it through a positive lens.
"You never like to lose, but it's always a learning experience when you do," Johnson said. "I don't think it really matters if you lose early or late. You're always going to take something out of it."
On the girls side, Dimond and South enter as two powerhouses and presumptive state title contenders. Dating back to 2010, either Dimond or South have captured every state girls DI title. The Lynx and Wolverines split a pair of contests during the regular season.
[Dimond girls soccer avenges lone loss of the season in potential state preview with rival South]
Division I girls soccer state tournament
No. 3 Chugiak vs. No. 6 West Valley, 11 a.m. at South
No. 1 Dimond vs. No. 8 West, 1 p.m. at West
No. 2 South vs. No. 7 Wasilla, 3 p.m. at South
No. 4 Service vs. No. 5 Lathrop, 5 p.m. at
Loser Dimond/West vs. Loser Service/Lathrop, 9 a.m. at West
Loser Chugiak/West Valley vs. Loser South/Wasilla, 9 a.m. at Service
Winner Dimond/West vs. Loser Service/Lathrop, 5 p.m. at West
Winner Chugiak/West Valley vs. Loser South/Wasilla, 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 vs. No. 6 Lathrop, 3 p.m. at Service
No. 1 Colony vs. No. 8 Chugiak, 1 p.m. at South
No. 2 South vs. No. 7 Dimond, 5 p.m. at South
No. 4 Service vs. No. 5 West, 7 p.m. at Service
Loser Colony/Chugiak vs. Loser Service/West, 11 a.m. at West
Loser West Valley/Lathrop vs. Loser South/Dimond, 11 a.m. at Service
Winner Colony/Chugiak vs. Loser Service/West, 7 p.m. at West
Winner West Valley/Lathrop vs. Loser South/Dimond, 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