The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team is still looking for a sweet spot on the temperature gauge after starting the season hot, then going cold and then hot again.
The Crimson Bears (2-2 overall, 2-0 Region V) will follow their quest for consistency to the lair of Southeast rival Ketchikan (0-2 Region V) this weekend, splitting a pair of conference matches between tonight and Saturday afternoon.
Juneau-Douglas used its home court advantage to beat Ketchikan in both of its conference matches earlier this season, easily escaping the Sept. 13 contest 25-15, 25-12, 25-20. However, the Lady Kings pulled much closer in last weekend's Anchorage tournament, pushing the Lady Bears to their limit in bracket play.
"When we get going everything clicks, and we showed that we can play with all of the top teams in Anchorage," senior middle hitter Kristie Ely said. "Sometimes we get frustrated, though. We're a pretty young team, and the only way for us to get more consistent is to get into more game-typesituations."
Good team speed and athleticism has allowed the JDHS defense to slow opponents early in the season, using Ely and fellow senior Rachel Peyton as blockers to divert the ball to the edges and back row. Sophomores Megan Hart and Sarah Tarver also have excelled on defense and both have received consistent minutes in the team's front-row rotation.
"Our back row and edge players have helped us score a lot of points by keeping that ball off the floor and forcing the other team to make mistakes," coach Dale Bontrager said.
Senior Briana Donahue, in her first year on varsity, has developed into one of the team's top back-row specialists on defense and offense, thanks to her hard, consistent serve. Kalea Chapman also has been a key addition to the back row as a defensive specialist.
A lack of height and experience has steered the team to its early identity as a defensive juggernaut, but the offense also has developed recently around middle hitters Ely and Peyton.
"Those hitters have been outstanding for us offensively and defensively," Bontrager said. "But right now our setters, Krista Barril and Mia Maake, are our two most improved players."
While Bontrager says the team is light-years ahead of where it started on offense this season, the squad's area in most need of improvement is its offense from the outside edges. The continued improvement of Wendy Calderwood has helped in that area, even leading to her nomination for last weekend's all-tournament team. Ely was the only other Lady Bear to receive that honor.
"We've shown that we can be great volleyball players," Peyton said. "As long as we jump high, hit hard and remember to hit around the blocks, we can compete with anybody."
Today's varsity match in Ketchikan is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Saturday's varsity match will kick off at 2 p.m.