By spreading the ball around and maintaining focus, the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team emphatically secured a two-game sweep of visiting Sitka on Saturday.
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The Crimson Bears (3-1, 3-1 Southeast) closed out the Wolves 25-22, 25-12, 25-8 on Saturday. On Friday, JDHS defeated the Wolves (2-4, 2-2) in straight sets, 25-19, 25-19, 25-17.
"This weekend we stepped up our mental game a lot," JDHS hitter Amber Walker said. "We've been working on it in practice - hitting against a block, working hard, playing tough defense and not being afraid to swing at the ball. We stepped up a lot."
The Crimson Bears were forced to use its bodies and brains in Saturday's victories.
The match started on an inauspicious note for JDHS due to a mistake by coach Sandi Wagner. She accidentally sent in the wrong lineup, so the Bears had to play the first game of the match with a lineup they've never used before.
"It looked a little disorganized, which is my fault," Wagner said with a smile. "Sometimes those things happen and they pulled through."
With the offense primarily flowing through outside hitter Sarah Christianson, JDHS and Sitka traded blows until setter Rachelle Albay went on a four-point service run to put the Bears up 18-12. Sitka crept to within two points of the lead before JDHS shut the door.
Up 1-0, and now with their more regular lineup in the game, Juneau-Douglas seized control.
Albay adeptly set the ball to multiple hitters, bringing out Juneau's diversity in offense.
Albay's setting, along with Walker, Kelly Walker, Christianson and Rachelle Miller's hitting, helped JDHS quickly close out Sitka in the second and third games.
"She was playing pretty scrappy; she was awesome," Walker said of Albay. "She plays smart."
With four different hitters clicking, JDHS was also able to avoid Sitka's main blocker, 6-foot-tall Hailey Barger.
"That's what we've been working on in practice, hitting against the block," Walker said. "Our coaches have been blocking against us so we learn to hit around them."
Christianson recorded a team-high 11 kills in Saturday's win. Amber Walker contributed 10 kills. Miller added eight kills, and Kelly Walker had four kills in the win.
In addition to offense, Juneau did a solid job of defending against Sitka's hitters.
Defensive specialist Carly Lehnhart patrolled the floor well while Miller and Amber Walker provided a strong defensive presence at the net.
"They really rely on their middle hitter and that's what we watched for," Juneau's Lindsey Kato said. "We try not to focus on them, though, because we can't control them."
Sammy Roguska helped close out the Wolves with five straight aces in the final game.
On Friday, JDHS connected on 95 percent of its serves to oust Sitka in three games.
Roguska had three aces while Albay and Tara Hansen added one each in the win.
"Mentally, (Friday) they played much better than they have been, which I was very excited about," Wagner said.
Defensively, four players recorded 10 digs or more in JDHS. Hansen had 14 digs, Amber Walker and Roguska posted 13 each. Albay had 10, and Christianson contributed nine in the win. The team also had eight blocks.
Christianson hammered down 20 kills in the win, connecting on 34 of 46 attempts.
Amber Walker contributed nine kills while Miller added seven.
Juneau-Douglas now leads the Southeast conference by one game over Sitka. The Crimson Bears play in two weeks in Anchorage.
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.
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