Falcons pull off spectacular comeback against Crimson Bears

Sloan guides Thunder Mountain offense

The game appeared to be over.


On this night, exactly a week until the Region V 4A Volleyball Championships begin in Ketchikan, Thunder Mountain High School didn’t seem to have it against Juneau-Douglas in the Crimson Bears’ lair.

In a 9-3 hole at the beginning of third set, TMHS looked headed to a three-set sweep in JDHS’ favor.

“We lost the first two (sets) so it was kinda like, ‘Why even play?’” TMHS senior Mary Landes said.“But then we kinda just thought about it like, ‘We’ve done this twice where we were down, so we can do it, we know what we’re capable of.”

[Slideshow: JDHS vs. TMHS volleyball]

The crosstown rivals played a month ago. And both times, after falling behind early, the Falcons found a way to force a fifth set, only to lose once they got there.

So Landes and the team kept playing. 9-4; 9-5; 9-6. The Falcons started a little run. 9-7; 9-8; 9-9; The Falcons kept scoring, and scoring and scoring.

And unlike the first two games, when the game reached the pre-destined fifth round, it was the Falcons — not the Crimson Bears — who came away as the victor.

Thunder Mountain defeated Juneau-Douglas, 21-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21, 16-14, on a wet Friday night.

Gabby Sloan delivered 17 kills to lead the Falcons. Cassie Dzinich, the catalyst for the Crimson Bears’ hot start, finished with 13 kills and 13 digs.

“They cover the court so well that it’s really hard to find a hole to smash the ball down into,” said Dzinich, who cooled off in the later sets.

The third, fourth and fifth sets showcased the Juneau team’s strong defense.

Even as Dzinich and Abby Meiners roofed Falcons hitters in seemingly every set, Sloan, with average height but above-average athleticism, made her presence known.

“She’s an amazing hitter. She’s only a sophomore and her vertical is outstanding,” TMHS coach Arnold Ibias said. “When she jumps, she’s so high up in the air that she’s over the top of the block when she’s hitting most of the time.”

After losing the third set, JDHS was in another prime position to put the game away. Ahead 7-1, the Crimson Bears’ couldn’t contain Sloan or Maxie Saceda-Hurt from heating up. The Falcons took a 9-8 lead and never looked back, at one point leading by eight points before settling for a 25-21 win.

Not surprisingly, Thunder Mountain started the fifth set, well … slow.

The Mendenhall Valley crew was down 4-1 right away. The set featured five ties the rest of the way before senior Rachel Macaulay’s low-arching serve glanced off the net. Three black jersey’s splayed court-ward for it. Shaylin Cesar made contact with the ball, but it went wayward.

Ace. Comeback. Match.

Cheers resounded in the gym as blue jerseys formed a clump on the court, jumping up and down in celebration.

The two played one another on Saturday night at TMHS. Check out the Empire online for a recap of Saturday’s game.

If JDHS wins the game on Saturday, they will be the No. 1 seed for the Region V 4A Volleyball Championships. If TMHS wins in four sets or less, they will be the No. 1 seed.

• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nolin.ainsworth@juneauempire.com.


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