After several road trips, the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team finally gets to play in front of its home crowd this weekend as the Crimson Bears host the 11th annual Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza on Friday and Saturday at the JDHS gym.
"We're glad to be home, very glad," Juneau co-coach Sandi Wagner said after her team practiced Wednesday night.
The Crimson Bears (7-2 overall) will host six teams in what is commonly called the JIVE tournament -- West Valley of Fairbanks, Kodiak, Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg and Mount Edgecumbe of Sitka. A seventh team, Craig, was scheduled to participate but had to drop out of the tournament because of problems keeping a full roster.
The schedule was still being reworked this morning, but round-robin pool play opens at 4 p.m. Friday with the last set of two-game mini-matches starting at 9 p.m. Wagner said Juneau is scheduled to play at 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday night. Round-robin pool play continues at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with the final matches for tournament placing set for 4:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and the championship at 8 p.m. Saturday night.
"We're excited," Juneau middle blocker Amy Neussl said. "We're looking for a lot of fan support. There are some teams we don't normally play, and we're excited to play someone besides Ketchikan and Sitka."
"I think we're all anxious to play at home," Juneau outside hitter Anna Capacci said. "We hope a lot of people can come to watch. We're excited to see some of these teams."
Juneau just returned from sweeping a pair of matches at Ketchikan over the Sept. 28-29 weekend. The Crimson Bears beat Ketchikan 15-6, 15-0, 15-12 on Friday and 12-15, 15-13, 15-11, 10-15, 15-2 on Saturday.
"I think Ketchikan played a lot better on Saturday," Juneau outside hitter Kelly Baxter said. "They almost took us by surprise."
The Crimson Bears spent some of the early games in Saturday's match working on specific skills, but in the fifth game Juneau went back to playing its normal game.
"I think we kind of realized this was it," Neussl said.
Juneau has also swept a pair of matches at Sitka over the Sept. 21-22 weekend, winning in four games on Friday and three on Saturday. Ketchikan and Sitka are the only teams in the tournament Juneau has played so far.
Juneau co-coach Dale Bontrager said Petersburg has two new coaches who both played at the college level, and their team has been the top Class 3A team in Southeast this season. Mount Edgecumbe, another Class 3A team from Southeast, also has a new coach this season. Wagner said West Valley and Kodiak, which are both Class 4A teams like Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka, are the two unknowns in this year's tournament.
"The (Class) 3A schools can be just as good as the (Class) 4A teams," Wagner said. "I have no idea if we've got a tougher tournament than last year. We tend not to scout other people. We just play our game."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.