With smiles on their faces and a spring in their collective step, an exuberant young Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team swept Ketchikan on Friday and Saturday to remain undefeated for the season.
"We try to keep our attitude high," senior Karla Dunivin said after Friday's match. "It helps with every aspect of the game."
"If you do a good play, you know everyone is going to be backing you up," sophomore Lesley Kalbrener said Friday. "It's a loud, energetic vibe out there - that's what makes it fun."
The Crimson Bears swept the Kings 25-15, 25-17, 25-22 on Friday, then beat Kayhi 25-16, 25-20, 25-6 on Saturday to improve to 4-0 this year.
"This is such a momentum game, and they kept the momentum up," Juneau coach Sandi Wagner said. "Both teams played very good defense, and that makes us have to hit smarter and focus more."
Saturday's match saw Ketchikan put up a strong battle before the Crimson Bears overwhelmed the Kings in the final game.
Juneau never trailed in the opening game. After Ketchikan staged an early rally to knot the score at 7-all, sophomore Hannah Barril - at just 5-feet, 1-inch tall - combined with senior Julie Heard (5-7) for a block to put Juneau ahead for good. A succession of three Juneau kills - two by sophomore Jillian Hahnlen, and one by Heard - made it 20-14, and the Crimson Bears cruised from there.
Ketchikan came out strong in the second game, forging leads of 5-1 and 8-5, aided by some Juneau errors and kills from Elyse Erickson and Laura West. Juneau finally tied the game at 9-all, and went on a 12-5 run that put the game out of Ketchikan's reach.
In the final game, Juneau dominated from the start on strong serving by Barril. The sophomore went on an 8-for-8 run to open the game as Juneau built leads of 7-0 and 10-3 early on. With the score 14-5, junior Amber Johnson took the serve and went on an 11-for-11 run to bring the Crimson Bears to within a point of winning the game and match.
Ketchikan's Larissa Otness made a kill to break Johnson's serve, but on the next play a kill by Hahnlen sealed the victory for Juneau.
Dunivin had 10 kills and seven digs in Saturday's match, while Heard added six kills and 14 digs. Kalbrener had eight kills, and Hahnlen added seven.
In Friday's match, Juneau and Ketchikan went back-and-forth early in each game before the Crimson Bears were able to power in front for good.
The opening game saw Kayhi take a 4-1 lead before Juneau went on an 11-4 run, capped by a block from Heard and Barril. Ketchikan never drew close than seven points down after that.
In the second game, Ketchikan narrowed Juneau's lead to four, 14-10, on a serving error by the Crimson Bears. But Juneau finished the game on an 11-5 run, aided by several kills from Dunivin.
Kayhi hung tough in the final game, never trailing by more than seven points and making a late run to close to within 20-19.
After the Kings rallied again to make it 23-22, Heard nudged the ball over the net for a kill to make it 24-22. Ketchikan hit the next Juneau serve out of bounds to close out the game.
Junior Amber Johnson (16-for-16), Dunivin (14-for-14, four aces), Barril (11-for-11) and Heard (14-for-15) led the way on serving for the Crimson Bears. Heard had 16 digs and 13 kills, Dunivin added 12 kills, and sophomore Torie Powers had 10 digs.
Johnson said the team is improving its play as a cohesive unit.
"I think we're definitely getting up there," Johnson said after Saturday's match. "We're (increasing) our skill level each day. Every time we play, we learn a little bit more."
In junior varsity action on Friday, Juneau beat Ketchikan 25-18, 18-25, 25-18, 25-16. Juneau's Marita Rodriguez was 21-for-23 serving with five aces, Alycia Cox had eight digs, and Hahnlen, Letasha McKoy and Ericka Novak had seven kills apiece. The Crimson Bear C team defeated Kayhi 25-17, 25-14, 25-20 on Friday.
On Saturday, the Crimson Bear JV beat the Kings 27-25, 25-21, 25-22. The Juneau C team swept Ketchikan 25-16, 25-18, 25-22.
Juneau's next action will come up north, as the Crimson Bears travel to play West Anchorage and Dimond in Anchorage on Thursday. Juneau will participate in a tournament at Homer next Friday and Saturday.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at email@example.com.