PALMER — As Jeremy Johnson and the Colony Knights waited for the Division I boys’ state tournament bracket to be released, they had honestly no idea which Cook Inlet Conference squad they would see in the first round.
It could have been West Anchorage, South Anchorage or defending state champion Dimond. As it turns out, the Knights will be part of a rematch of the 2018 title game. Colony will face the Lynx Thursday at 3 p.m. at Service during the first round of the ASAA/First National Bank State Soccer Championships.
“It came down to the last day (of the season). It all depended on outcomes,” Johnson, Colony’s longtime head coach, said. “All of the Cook Inlet teams are solid. I took kind of a wait and see attitude.”
Dimond edged Colony 1-0 in a shootout to win the 2018 title. Johnson said, while the Knights may not have immediately expected to see the Lynx at this point, he’s not surprised. Johnson said he’s been coaching long enough to know, anything can happen. He said, regardless, he knew his team would face a tough side in the first round.
“I think every team in the tournament has a chance to make the run,” Johnson said.
Johnson said he doesn’t think the first-round meeting with Dimond will add significant motivation. But that’s not because the Knights don’t want the opportunity to knock off the Lynx.
“There’s not much more need for motivation. They’ve been hungry for it all year. They’ve been itching to get to this point all year,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the Knights do want to ensure that a Dimond path back to a title doesn’t go through the Knights.
Colony is the No. 2 seed from the Railbelt Conference. Dimond is the No. 3 squad from the CIC.
Colony is also one of a pair of Valley teams in the Division I boys bracket. Wasilla, the Railbelt’s third seed, is in the state tournament for the first time since 2014. The Warriors face second-seeded West Anchorage Thursday at 1 p.m. at West Anchorage in the first round.
In the other two first-round matchups, Service plays Chugiak and West Valley faces South Anchorage.
Johnson is also the head coach of the Colony girls, the Railbelt’s top seed in the Division I girls tourney. Johnson’s Knights used a 1-0 win over rival Wasilla May 17 to clinch the conference title. The Knights will play Service Thursday at 9 a.m. at Service in the girls’ quarterfinals. Colony finished 14-1-1 during the regular season. Johnson said the Knights certainly have the potential to do great things during the tournament.
“If we play well, I think we’ve got the chance to beat anybody,” Johnson said. “It’s a quality field in the state tournament, but we can play with anyone in the field.”
Colony scored during stoppage play to beat the Warriors during the final match of the regular season. Wasilla head coach Patrick O’Neill said Wasilla, which finished 12-3-3, can motivate the Warriors as they enter the state tourney.
“That was the first loss we’ve had in 14 games,” O’Neill said after the Colony match. “Maybe it will be a good chance to refocus, get over the disappointment of not winning the conference and come back and regroup and go for it.”
O’Neill said Wasilla, which finished as the runner-up in state last year, certainly has the potential to play its way back into the title game.
“Our goal this entire season has been to win a conference championship and a state championship,” O’Neill said.
Wasilla opens against West Anchorage, the No. 3 seed from the Cook Inlet, Thursday at 11 a.m. at West. The Eagles edged Wasilla 2-1 early in the season, but the Warriors were not at full strength.
In the other first-round matchups, defending state champion South Anchorage meets Eagle River and Dimond faces West Valley.
Moose erase drought
For the first time since 2006, both the Palmer boys and girls soccer teams will both play in the state tournament. The Palmer boys are the eighth seed in the Division II bracket, and will face top-seeded Juneau-Douglas Thursday at 5 p.m. at Service. The Moose girls are the seventh seeded and face second-seeded Wasilla Thursday at 3 p.m. at Eagle River in the first round.
“I think they’ve come a long way,” Palmer head coach Josh Banks said of his squad after the Moose used a win over Houston on May 16 to clinch its first state tourney berth in more than a decade.
The Palmer girls are in the state tourney for the second consecutive year after clinching a region title for the first time in more than a decade.
“It’s a super big deal. They are so excited,” Palmer head coach Harmony Chadwick said.
Contact Frontiersman managing editor Jeremiah Bartz at email@example.com.