Crimson Bears fourth at state volleyball championships

Mt. Edgecumbe repeats as 3A champs

The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball teams push for the 4A state championship ended on Saturday with a 25-13, 24-26, 25-15, 25-20 match loss to the Palmer Moose at the Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla.


“We got beat,” JDHS coach Lesslie Knight said. “Our kids did great, they are competing against kids who are playing all year round. They are playing against some real talent up here.”

The Crimson Bears fished fourth with the loss and Palmer placed third, losing to Dimond in their next match. Coaching with Knight were Dale Bontrager, Pat Gorman and Val Cummins.

JDHS senior Chelsea Peterson, who will play for the University of Alaska Anchorage next season, was selected to the All-State Tournament Team.

“I feel really good,” Peterson said. “I am happy and we played really well together. The players at state are really good. It really makes me want to push myself and work even harder so I can compete next year at college. It makes me want to do as much as I possibly can to get better by the time next season rolls around.”

Peterson led with 18 kills and 1 service ace with 10 digs.

“I really enjoyed this season,” Peterson said “Yeah, we might not have played the best we could today, but we tried our hardest and we did a lot more than some people probably expected of us. I thought we did really well.”

Sophomore Cora Bontrager led with 15 digs. Senior Rachel Doogan added 13 digs, 13 service attempts, 2 blocks and 2 kills. Junior Gracie Meiners had 12 kills, 14 serves with 2 aces, and 4 digs. Junior Kayla Balovich led with 20 service attempts with 3 aces, 5 kills and 4 digs.

Doogan and Sally Paul were selected to the tournament’s Good Sport Team.

“It was a tough match,” Paul said. “We thought we could compete with them a little more because we beat them earlier this season. They are a really good team and we all played our hardest, what happened, happened.”

Paul had 8 serves and 5 digs. Senior Amberli Fitka had 3 serves and 1 dig. Sophomore Maddie McKeown had 4 blocks, 1 kill and 1 dig. Junior Kaitlin Fagerstrom tallied 2 kills and 1 block. Junior Tori Fogg had 10 serves with 1 ace and 4 digs.

JDHS had beaten Soldotna in a loser-out game on Friday 16-25, 25-22, 19-25, 25-21, 15-12.

Peterson led with 32 kills, 23 digs, 2 aces; Balovich had 17 kills, 2 aces; Meiners 25 digs, 6 kills, 5 aces; Paul 17 digs, 1 ace; Doogan 12 digs, 1 kill; McKeown 2 blocks, 2 kills; Bontrager 10 digs; Hall 1 block, 1 dig; Fitka 5 digs; Fogg 3 digs.

“It was a really good tournament,” senior Amberli Fitka said. “Our passing definitely improved and just the way we worked as a team. With our communication, and talking more we were really able to work together as a team. We can compete with Palmer.”

The Dimond Lynx, who had to come back through the losers bracket after South beat then on Friday, battled in the 4A championship game Saturday night against South again, winning in three games 25-16, 25-20, 25-22, and then winning an “If” game to 30 points for the 2012 title.

The match was a rematch of last season’s state final (won by South) and this season’s Cook Inlet Conference Championship game (won by Dimond).

JDHS opened state tournament play on Thursday with a 18-25, 18-25, 25-11, 25-22, 15-7 match win against Kodiak and fell to Dimond later that evening 25-17, 25-16, 25-21.

In 3A action, the Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves defended their state championship with an undefeated sweep through the tournament.

The Lady Braves opened tourney play Thursday defeating Nikiski 25-19, 22-25, 25-15, 25-13 and Nome 25-15, 25-10, 25-5. On Friday the Lady Braves beat Grace Christian (last season’s runner-up) 25-22, 25-15, 25-19. In the state title match the Lady Braves again stopped Grace Christian 25-21, 13-25, 25-17, 25-22, solidifying itself as a volleyball powerhouse.

It was the third straight year the teams had met in the state final, with Grace winning in 2010.

“I’m really happy that we did it and as a team we pulled through, because we struggled a little bit out there,” Mt. Edgecumbe’s Deenaalee Hodgdon told the Anchorage Daily News. “We’ve had a pretty strong team, chemistry-wise, throughout the season and I think that’s what pulled us through.”

Hodgdon led the team from Sitka with 19 kills, striking for match point on a fluke play that caught Grace off guard. She dove forward for a ball in the backcourt and accidentally sent it over the net, where it hit the floor in the middle of six stunned Grace players. Hodgdon said she was just trying to get the ball to the setter, so Taryn White (13 kills) could hit it.

“It breaks your heart,” Grace coach Valerie Steele told the Anchorage Daily News. “It’s not the first time it has ever happened, but it was a fluke thing.”

Grace had already fought off two match points when the final point landed. Because the Grizzlies came into the final with one loss, the tournament’s new double-elimination format required them to win the match to force an if-necessary set to 30 points to decide a winner. Grace, which swept Monroe earlier Saturday to earn its place in the final, won all its five-set matches this season.

Grace started the match like a ball of fire, shooting to a 17-11 lead in the first set on a big kill from Heather Green (19 kills, 25 digs). The Grizzlies looked poised to win the set with ease until Mt. Edgecumbe suddenly pulled it together and closed the set on a 14-4 run.

“There was a major lack of intensity (in the second set),” White said. “It’s a funk that we get into every once in a while. When we’re out there and we play hard and we have a lot of intensity, no one can stop us.”


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