The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team got an unexpected weekend off after last week's terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.
The Crimson Bears were scheduled to play Ketchikan, but instead ended up having scrimmages against their coaches on Friday and an adult women's league team on Saturday when Ketchikan wasn't able to make the trip to Juneau. Those matches have yet to be rescheduled.
This weekend, the Crimson Bears will return to regular-season action as they travel to Sitka to play Region V-Class 4A matches against the Wolves tonight and Saturday. Matches start at 4 p.m. today as the C teams play, followed by the junior varsity at 6 p.m. and the varsity at 8 p.m. On Saturday, the C teams play at 4:30 p.m., the JV teams play at 6 p.m. and the varsity teams play at 8 p.m.
While the Crimson Bears were on their last road trip, the players filled up both sides of a napkin with items they wanted to work on and areas they thought the team could improve. Bontrager said the extra time off gave the coaches more time to work with the team on those items.
"The time off's been good for us," said Juneau co-coach Dale Bontrager, whose team has a 3-2 overall record after a five-match road trip to Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula on Sept. 5-8. "We've been going down that napkin, working on the things the kids listed. But the kids are definitely ready to play."
"We had a list of things, like mixing up our serving, we wanted to work on," Juneau senior middle blocker Brenna Asper-Smith said. "We had a good time and a full week of practice. We could get caught up on our schoolwork. We're ready to get back in action now."
While Juneau has been able to get five non-region matches under its belt, the Wolves have yet to play a regulation match this season. The only competition beyond a team scrimmage Sitka's seen this season has been the preseason Sitka Jamboree it hosted against Juneau and Ketchikan on Aug. 31-Sept. 1.
"We've had nothing scheduled, so we're pretty anxious to play," new Sitka coach Stephanie Miller said. "But the break's been a good thing. With a new coach and a whole new coaching system, the girls have had to take a step back."
Miller said she didn't have a lot of local competition for Sitka to train with during its break, especially with cross-town rival Mount Edgecumbe also getting a late start on its season. She said she had to bring in several male beach volleyball players just to give the Wolves a chance to see the blocking and hitting levels Juneau will bring to this weekend's matches.
According to Miller, Kim Uddipa will be the main setter, with Heather Hawk and Roxanne Korthius anchoring the middle and Sidney Wyman and Amyee Owen her main outside hitters.
"Juneau's always well-coached and has well-maintained athletes who are in shape," Miller said. "I think my girls are kind of scared to play them as their first match."
Bontrager said Sitka's team could be a challenge for Juneau, which has won 11 of the last 13 Region V-4A titles.
"What we saw at the Jamboree was Sitka had a lot of strong players," Bontrager said. "They could play with you for a few points, but then they'd break down. If they can get their act together as a team, they can be dangerous. I'm anxious to see what they have and if they can play a whole game."
"We saw them play in the Jamboree and I'm sure they've improved," Asper-Smith said. "We never go into a match lightly. We've been working on our team goals."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.