Just one look at the list of teams attending this weekend's 16th annual Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza tournament is all it takes to know that the Crimson Bears will have their hands full.
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In addition to Southeast Conference rivals Ketchikan and Sitka, defending small-school state champs Cordova and small-school runners up Petersburg will make the trip.
Also, Mat-Su valleys teams Colony and Palmer will fly south to play for two days.
The Palmer Moose recently made noise after topping two-time defending state champs South Anchorage on Sept. 29 in the West Spiketacular tournament finals in Anchorage.
16th annual JIVE tournament
Who: Juneau-Douglas hosts 10 teams in the two-day tourney.
Where: The JDHS main gym and auxillary gym.
When: Games start at 3 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The final is schedule for 6 p.m. Saturday. Times are subject to change.
What's at state: The Crimson Bears have won three straight JIVE championships.
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"It shocked me, but it didn't," Juneau's Cortney Wagner said of the Palmer win. "Playing Palmer last year, they were a good team but young and inexperienced like we are. For them to have grown and beat South kind of shocked me because South is really good. (South has) only been a team three years and they won state twice."
The tough competition should serve the Crimson Bears well.
With the Southeast Conference region tournament looming in a few weeks, playing against tough teams will only make JDHS stronger as the season wears on.
"I'm stoked," Wagner said. "I think we need this, to get this good competition in here. It'll help us improve. It'll be a big deal for us."
While striving to win will clearly be paramount for JDHS, the team isn't necessarily consumed with capturing a fourth-straight JIVE title.
"It's playing for a positive attitude," JDHS senior Hailey Summers said. "Lately, if we lose we get down on ourselves, so if we lose this weekend, we should keep our positive attitude."
The ability to play through rough stretches is crucial in volleyball.
One bad mistake may translate losing one point for JDHS. Dwelling on that mistake and not focusing on the ensuing play, however, could lead to a landslide.
Conversely, success can breed success.
"There's definitely been times when it's just there and we've clicked," Wagner said. "You feel it as a team. It's powerful. Our goal is to keep it going all the time, even in the lows."
The JIVE tournament, now entering its 16th year, starts off the most strenuous part of the Bears' schedule.
In two weeks, Juneau-Douglas will face Anchorage's top teams at the Service/Dimond Tournament. The Crimson Bears then conclude the season by hosting the Kings, who split with JDHS on Sept. 7-8.
How JDHS plays and handles the highs and lows will likely determine its success in October. That journey starts Friday.
"I think for us success isn't winning and losing this weekend, it's how well we mesh as a team," Wagner said. "It's about going for every ball and knowing whose responsibilities are for what ball. ... That's going to be the key thing get us over the top when it comes to regionals."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or email@example.com.
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