After missing the state tournament last season and finishing seventh the year before, Soldotna started the state tournament mighty strong Thursday.
Juneau-Douglas High School never matched the intensity of the Stars, losing 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-16) in the first round of the ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 4A State Volleyball Championships at West Anchorage High School.
JDHS senior middle hitter Cassie Dzinich led the Crimson Bears with 12 kills. Senior Abby Meiners finished with a team-high 12 digs in the loss.
The Crimson Bears can no longer afford to lose another game at the state tournament. JDHS plays Wasilla at 10 a.m. Friday. Bartlett, one of three Anchorage teams in the 4A bracket, defeated Wasilla 3-0 in the game immediately prior to Juneau-Douglas’ to bounce Wasilla there.
After scoring six of the 15 total points at the beginning of the first set, JDHS was outscored 16-6 the rest of the way.
“It was nerves but it was also excitement because a lot of the people on our team this year have never been to state,” JDHS’ Leah Spargo said of the slow start.
The Crimson Bears couldn’t gain traction in the second set, either. The Crimson Bears trailed by four or more points for the majority of the game.
The third set was the closest, with JDHS showing signs of the stingy defense that boded so well for them in last weekend’s Region V Tournament.
JDHS went on a 5-0 run in the beginning of the set, tying the game at 7-7, prompting Soldotna head coach Sheila Kupferschmid to call a timeout. Following the timeout, the Stars started to pull away again.
Spargo enlisted herself in the comeback cause in the third set, but of her nine attacks (hits over the net) — five were played by Stars and three went out of bounds.
Kupferschmid characterized the game as a “serve-serve-receive game,” or a game dictated primarily by her team’s serving.
“They struggled passing our serves and so they couldn’t get into the flow of things because they weren’t passing,” Kupferschmid said. “So it probably started from there.”
Spargo and the team are eager to get back on track Friday.
“They played with confidence — which we had at points, didn’t have at points,” she said. “I think that’s something were definitely going to work on tomorrow is just consistency with confidence, that’s what we’ll need.”
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2263 or email@example.com.