At certain times, it appeared youth and inexperience might doom the Juneau-Douglas High volleyball team in its matches with Region V-rival Ketchikan Friday and Saturday night at the high school's auxiliary gym.
Saturday night Ketchikan took Juneau on a five-game match marathon ride before finally succumbing to the Crimson Bears 15-13, 10-15, 10-15, 15-5, 15-13. On Friday, Juneau downed Ketchikan in four games 15-13, 15-8, 5-15, 15-7.
"Ketchikan is a good team, no two ways about it," said Juneau coach Sandi Wagner. "They split with Sitka last week. They're making very few errors."
Saturday's match, which ran over two hours, was characterized by long rallies and dramatic digs from the backcourt. In the fifth game, Juneau led 10-2 at one point before Ketchikan rallied to take the lead 13-12. The Crimson Bears got the sideout, and Rosemarie Moses' ace at match point sealed the game.
"Rose is a hero," Wagner said. "What more can you ask for, that was outstanding."
Juneau had trouble with Ketchikan Friday as well. Barely 10 minutes into the first game, Ketchikan led 7-1 and was threatening for more, when Anna Capacci made two key digs on blistering Kayhi spikes, then walloped a spike of her own to get the sideout. The Crimson Bears then mounted a steady comeback to tie the game 13-13. Capacci's tip over the net past diving Kayhi defenders gave Juneau its first lead, 14-13, then Capacci added the finishing kill to the far right corner to complete the stunning turnaround.
"That pumped us up," said Capacci, who led the Crimson Bears (2-0 in region, 3-3 overall) Friday with 13 kills. "It made us more confident."
Capacci wasn't the only Juneau player making key digs. Senior Sharon Villanueva, who started the night playing with the junior varsity squad, dove around the court with the reckless abandon of a center fielder trying to catch a fly ball. Villanueva ran into a large, sliding metal door behind the court to make a dig, and sprinted forward from the backrow to make a body-parallel diving dig on another play.
Villanueva said the team has a philosophy of never giving up on a play.
""It feels good when you're on the floor and you've passed the ball," said Villanueva, who chased a ball into the metal door Saturday as well. "We just made sure that we got to every ball and passed every ball."
"She was all-out tonight," said Juneau head coach Sandi Wagner. "She was focused. She definitely sparked us defensively."
The spark was needed, as at times Ketchikan -- which won just one game against Juneau last season -- controlled the game. The Kings' front line pair of outside hitter Danette Kahle and middle hitter Lindsay Bolling always challenged Juneau at the net. Ketchikan, with a distinct size disadvantage, managed few kills in its Game 3 win, but rarely let Juneau' hitters get uncontested looks for spikes. Ketchikan also served 100 percent in the first game.
"Ketchikan played us very well," Wagner said. "The first 10 or 15 minutes of the game they didn't make a mistake.
"That was a long match -- long games, long rallies," Wagner said. "That's what it's all about."
On Friday, Kahle led Ketchikan with 14 kills, five blocks and was a perfect 11-for-11 serving. Bolling had 10 kills, setter Zeta Moss had six, and Anne Elliot made 17-of-17 serves with one ace.
Brenna Asper-Smith added nine kills and Callan Janowiec eight in Friday's match.
On Saturday, Capacci totaled 21 kills and Asper-Smith had 12.
Kahle led Ketchikan Saturday with 10 kills and eight blocks. Zeta Moss had nine kills and Janea Thomas seven.
Ketchikan (1-3 region, 1-3 overall) split with Sitka last weekend, winning 15-10, 6-15, 15-4, 15-5 last Saturday after falling in a five-game marathon 15-8, 4-15, 5-15, 15-9, 15-4 the night before.
Ketchikan coach Naomi Michalson believed the Southeast region could be more competitive this season after years of Juneau dominance.
"Overall the three teams are fairly even," Michalson said. "There should be some good volleyball this year."