If opening weekend is any indication of what is to come for the Juneau-Douglas volleyball team this season, the outlook seems promising for this senior-laden squad.
The Crimson Bears' overall experience dominated this weekend's Region V Jamboree at Thunder Mountain High School, as the team rolled to an undefeated round-robin tournament record, while the homestanding Falcons got a preseason dose of what they'll be up against during Southeast Conference play.
Juneau-Douglas defeated the Falcons 25-8, 25-7 in the teams' two-game matchup Saturday evening.
The Bears got started quickly in the first game. Up 2-1, senior Kalea Chapman smashed two aces and fellow senior Sarah Tarver hit a kill down the center of the court to make it 5-1 JDHS right off the bat. The crimson and black did not look back from there.
Senior middle blocker Maria Weyhrauch came alive with her team already up 9-3. The Crimson Bears went on an 11-3 run on the strength of three kills and two stuffs from Weyhrauch, and senior hitter Taylor Larson contributed two booming kills to give Juneau-Douglas a 20-6 advantage. Another Larson kill five points later gave JDHS the first game 25-8, and Weyhrauch led the way with 5 kills and the only solo stuff of the opening set.
Juneau-Douglas assistant coach Kelsey Neussl, stepping in for coach Sandi Wagner, said she was impressed by the early-season performances of her players.
"We did everything well. We served hard, we got every ball up and we had people do well in different spots," she said. "We want to take this positive outcome and run. We got the victory and had good, positive experiences on the court.
"Everybody did their jobs and did them well."
The second game was much of the same for both teams as the Crimson Bears raced out to a 9-0 lead behind two Tarver kills, three Chapman aces and another stuff and kill from senior outside hitter Daffodil Alinson. The Crimson Bears cruised through the rest of the second game as the team combined for 10 kills and six stuffs on their way to the 25-7 win.
Chapman said the team's experience will be a big advantage going forward as they meet tougher competition down the road.
"We definitely have a lot of chemistry, which helps a lot," she said. "Sometimes we can even read each other's minds and we know where to go, so that's a good thing. We have a lot of leadership."
But Thunder Mountain's improvement as a program was evident during the weekend's tournament. The Falcons won three out of 10 games played on Friday and Saturday, and coach Adriana Rodriguez said the biggest difference this season is the team's overall approach.
"The biggest change is that thegirls have higher expectations of themselves, and so I see them going a lot harder," she said. "So for them it's probably a harder start (than last year) because their expectations are very different."
While the expectations are higher, Rodriguez said there may have been some jitters going up against the long-standing Southeast powerhouse Bears.
"JDHS has a super strong team, and I think there's a lot of intimidation factor there for our girls because they know all of them and they know their talent," she said. "So it was a tough match for us, but it was great for us to learn about what we need to improve on to become a very competitive team.
"We still have a lot of growing to do, but we have already improved a lot as a team," she continued. "(The team) is recognizing how important it is to have the confidence as a team and to trust each other."
Thunder Mountain senior middle hitter Savana Petrie echoed Rodriguez' sentiment, saying this year's team is miles ahead of last year's group at this point in the season.
"We've seen major improvements, that's for sure. The (offseason) camps that we went to really helped," she said. "This tournament was a little shaky for us, but we definitely played a lot better than last year. We didn't beat Ketchikan last year, but ended up beating them once today. So that's pretty exciting."
As for the future against Juneau-Douglas, Petrie said the strategy is in place, it's just a matter of executing.
"We need to try and take away their big hitters. They have some tall people that hit really hard, so blocking off the court is important," she said. "We want to try and make them play our game."
Thunder Mountain will test its mettle on the road next weekend in Ketchikan for the regular season opener against the conference-rival Kings.
Region V Jamboree
Craig 25, Thunder Mountain 13
Thunder Mountain 28, Craig 26
Friday's second game between Thunder Mountain and Craig's A teams saw 10 ties and eight lead changes before the Falcons scored the final two points of the game for a 28-26 win.
The biggest lead of the game came after the Falcons scored five straight points to take an 18-12 lead behind the serve of senior setter Jordan Jeans, which included three straight aces.
Craig climbed back into the lead after scoring 11 of 14 points, but reeled off four straight, including two aces by senior outside hitter Maddie Wells, to tie the game at 24-all. The teams traded points but with the game knotted at 26, junior outside hitter Jeslie Villaverde smashed a kill, and sophomore middle hitter won a joust at the net for game point.
Craig won the first game 25-13.
Juneau-Douglas 25, Sitka 11
Juneau-Douglas 25, Sitka 17
Juneau-Douglas 25, Ketchikan 10
Juneau-Douglas 25, Ketchikan 14
Juneau-Douglas made a statement Friday in two games against Southeast Conference rival Ketchikan, dominating the Kings 25-10 and 25-14.
The Crimson Bears led the first game 9-3 after scoring four straight points, including two kills by senior outside hitter Daffodil Alinson and an ace by senior defensive specialist Kalea Chapman.
The Kings scored three straight to cut into the lead, but JDHS answered with a seven-point surge, including a kill and a stuff by senior middle blocker Sarah Tarver and an ace by Alinson. The Bears closed by scoring 6 of 8 points, with senior setter Megan Hart acing game point.
Game 2 was tight at 10-9, but JDHS scored 11 of 13 points to blow the game open. Two kills by senior hitter Taylor Larson and two aces by senior outside hitter Amanda Roemeling highlighted the run. The Bears closed with three straight points, with game point coming on a vicious free ball stuff by Tarver.
Haines 25, Thunder Mountain 16
Haines 25, Thunder Mountain 23
The Thunder Mountain volleyball team found the going tough in Saturday afternoon's opener against the Haines Glacier Bears.
The Falcons found themselves facing an early deficit in the first game of the two-game set against the Glacier Bears, and they were not able to come back as they fell 25-16.
Midway through the first game, senior outside hitter Janie White came up with a big stuff to bring the Falcons back to within one point, but even sophomore middle hitter Kendra Wittwer's two kills and one ace couldn't get Thunder Mountain any closer.
The Glacier Bears capitalized on several Falcons mishits, and were able to come up with several big kills and stuffs down the stretch to close the game.
The second game started much the same way until the Falcons found the spark they needed halfway through the set. After falling behind by as many as six points at 16-10, the Falcons went on the attack. Senior Savana Petrie's kill, Wittwer's ace and junior Melissa Fisher's kill and stuff sparked a 13-7 run as the Falcons found themselves tied at 23 with the Glacier Bears. But two more mishits did the Falcons in as Haines quickly closed the game on a 2-0 run to make it a final at 25-23.
Juneau-Douglas 25, Haines 5
Juneau-Douglas 25, Haines 9
After dispatching of the Falcons in two games Saturday afternoon at Thunder Mountain High School, the Crimson Bears dominated Haines 25-5, 25-9 to finish the round-robin tournament undefeated.
Juneau-Douglas roared out to an 11-1 lead, taking advantage of several mishits from the Glacier Bears and a couple of monster kills from seniors Sarah Tarver and Taylor Larson.
The Crimson Bears did not stop there as seniors Vika Toetuu and Megan Mauseth pitched in with a kill and an ace, respectively, and after another Toetuu kill and an ace from Kalea Chapman, the Crimson Bears finished with a 14-4 run to finish the game at 25-5.
During the second game, Juneau-Douglas got off to another fast start, jumping out early 10-3. But Haines was determined to not make it so easy.
A big kill midway through the second game set off a 4-2 Haines run that chipped away at the lead to make the score 12-7, but that's as close as Haines would get as the Crimson Bears turned up the pressure behind two consecutive Chapman aces after the Glacier Bears closed the gap to five points.
Seniors Maria Weyhrauch and Daffodil Alinson came up with two big kills late in the match, and the Crimson Bears talent was too much for Haines as JDHS finished on a 13-2 run to make the final score 25-9.
Juneau-Douglas is off next weekend before taking on Ketchikan in Juneau Sept. 10-11 for the regular season conference opener.
Juneau-Douglas 25, Craig 17
Juneau-Douglas 25, Craig 5
Juneau-Douglas picked up right where left off Saturday, cruising to a 25-17 win in Game 1 over Craig before rolling to a 25-5 win in Game 2.
Game 1 was close at 9-7 before the Crimson Bears scored 8 of the next 10 points. Senior middle blocker Maria Weyhrauch and junior outside hitter Krista Bontrager started the surge with back-to-back kills, followed by an ace by senior outside hitter Daffodil Alinson and another kill by Bontrager for a 16-9 JDHS lead.
The game was even the rest of the way with game point coming on another Bontrager kill.
JDHS didn't mess around in Game 2, storming to a 9-0 lead off a kill by Bontrager, and a laser of a kill by senior hitter Taylor Larson. Senior setter Megan Hart added two aces and Craig committed four hitting errors during the run.
Craig got no closer than 14 the rest of the way and senior hitter Amanda Roemeling scored a free ball stuff on game point.
Thunder Mountain 25, Ketchikan 19
Ketchikan 25, Thunder Mountain 18
Thunder Mountain and Ketchikan faced off in a preview of next weekend's Southeast Conference openers, with the teams splitting almost identical scores.
The Falcons took the first game 25-19 after a seven-point deficit. Thunder Mountain fell behind 15-8 and slowly chipped away, tying the game at 19-all after scoring 6 of 7 points, including two aces by senior setter Jordan Jeans.
Senior outside hitter Janie White's ace tied the game, forcing a Ketchikan timeout. But it didn't stop the Falcons' momentum as TMHS scored the final eight points, with five coming off Ketchikan hitting errors.
Ketchikan came out of the gate quickly in Game 2 as it was the Falcons' turn to misplay the ball. After four hitting errors on TMHS, four aces and a stuff and a kill by the Kings, Ketchikan led 11-3, and Thunder Mountain never threatened the rest of the way.