When the Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain High School volleyball teams play each other, expect to go for a ride.
It was that way at the Region V Volleyball Championships last November. It was that way again on Tuesday night under the bright lights of the Thunderdome.
Over 10 months removed from last year’s regional tournament — in which four out of the seven sets played between JDHS and TMHS were decided by three or fewer points — the teams once more showed how evenly matched they are.
JDHS won in the five sets over Thunder Mountain: 25-14, 26-28, 22-25, 25-17, 15-13.
Having already made three road trips this season, JDHS senior Cassie Dzinich looked forward to playing at home against their primary Southeast Conference challenger.
“Since we’re playing so late in the season — normally the build-up is intense —but this time it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, six days until TM, five days until TM!’” Dzinich said. “I have friends on the team, and we’re so excited to play each other because I feel like we’re really evenly-matched teams.”
Dzinich led her squad with 16 kills, pestering the Falcons’ back row with high-velocity spikes. Shaylin Cesar and Riley Stadt helped prevent the Falcons’ hitters from getting in a rhythm with dozens of digs.
“Our hitters were just thinking they needed to pound the ball, instead of being like, ‘OK, let’s see what they’re giving us,’” TMHS coach Arnold Ibias said.
The match may have ended a lot sooner had the Falcons not closed on the second set on a 6-2 run. JDHS dropped two set points and Audrey Welling came up with several clutch points to help Thunder Mountain take the set.
Maxie Saceda-Hurt and Mary Landes helped TMHS take the third set before JDHS roared back to win the fourth set.
JDHS coach Dale Bontrager has been impressed with his team’s unity this season — even under fire.
“It’s a very responsive group,” he said. “I asked them what it is, and they said it’s because they like each other. Almost all of them have known each other since the fourth grade and they really get along.”
The Falcons took a 5-4 lead in the fifth set and led 12-9. However, some miscommunication and an ace by Cesar ended the match with a 15-13 Crimson Bears win.
Both teams are in action this weekend. Juneau-Douglas travels to Petersburg to play the Vikings. Thunder Mountain plays their second series of the season against Ketchikan. The Falcons dispatched the Kings 3-0 and 3-1 in Ketchikan at the beginning of the month.
JDHS and TMHS square off again on Tuesday at JDHS. The third and fourth conference games between the Crimson Bears and Falcons take place Oct. 27 and Oct. 28, the weekend before the Region V tournament in Ketchikan.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org.