The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team was a much improved team this weekend, even if it didn't end the way the Crimson Bears wanted it to.
The Crimson Bears earned the top seed in Saturday's championship match of the Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza, also known as the JIVE tournament, but ended up losing the title to second-seeded Skyview 15-13, 15-7, 15-2.
"It was really disappointing," Juneau's Brenna Asper-Smith said. "We were ready to play."
The Crimson Bears were coming off a weekend Sept. 29-30 where they split a pair of Region V-Class 4A matches in Ketchikan, with the loss to Ketchikan on Friday being the first region loss in several years for Juneau. The Juneau players felt they learned from those two matches, and they were able to carry that lesson through to this weekend's JIVE tournament.
"That game against Ketchikan taught us we need to talk, we need to communicate," Juneau's Sharon Villanueva said before the final. "We're excited. We're determined to win."
In the other final-round matches Saturday, Craig needed five games to beat Wrangell 12-15, 15-8, 15-9, 6-15, 15-9 in the third-fourth place match; North Pole defeated Ketchikan 15-13, 11-15, 15-4, 15-11 in the fifth-sixth place match; and Sitka swept Kotzebue 15-1, 15-6, 15-6 in the seventh-eighth place match.
In the title match, the Crimson Bears and the Panthers played a first game that saw seven lead changes and five ties. Juneau led 13-11 late in the game, but Skyview came back to win the game as Beth Massey made three kills and a block down the stretch.
Juneau took a 4-1 lead in the second game, but Skyview roared back for a 7-4 lead. Juneau was able to tie the game at 7-7, but then Juneau's passing game started to fall apart and Skyview was able to run off the final eight points.
In the final game, Juneau never got untracked as Skyview took leads of 5-0 and 6-2 before closing out the last nine points of the match.
"It wasn't what they did, but what we did," Juneau's Angie Mill said. "Yesterday we were completely on our game and tonight we weren't."
The Crimson Bears earned the top seed through the round-robin portion of the tournament, posting a 12-2 record with their only game losses coming to Kotzebue and North Pole. Skyview also posted a 12-2 record through the round-robin section, but both of the Panthers' losses were to Juneau on Friday night.
Skyview's Amanda Bauer said the Panthers may have thought about the losses to Juneau, but it wasn't at the forefront of their minds as they played the Crimson Bears for the title. She said what helped Skyview was an eight-hour break the Panthers (5-5 overall in regulation matches this season) enjoyed before the final because they were one of the first teams to complete their round-robin games.
"Maybe, but it wasn't consciously on our minds," Bauer said when asked if there was extra incentive against Juneau (6-5 overall). "The break really helped because we got to go do some stuff. Then, we established our middle hitters and they really got a chance to swing."
"The break helped us visualize what we needed to do," Massey said. "We were really enthusiastic. We had a lot of emotion."
Juneau was led in the championship match by Amy Neussl, who had seven kills, while Anna Capacci added six kills and Asper-Smith had four. Janina Pelayo served three aces for Juneau, with Rosemarie Moises and Villanueva adding two aces each. Stats weren't available for Skyview.
The all-tournament team featured three players from Skyview -- Bauer, Massey and Christina Colvin -- and three from Juneau -- Mill, Pelayo and Neussl. Rounding out the all-tourney team were Kim Uddipa of Sitka, Danette Kahle of Ketchikan, Megan Geraghty of North Pole, Kaelene Wilson of Wrangell and two players from Craig -- Meggie Haydu and Jennifer Thome.
The Crimson Bears were excited with the way they played in the round-robin portion of the tournament Friday and Saturday, feeling like they'd been able to make some strides this weekend.
"We really worked on it the last week of practice," Pelayo said. "I was a little worried about our chemistry after Ketchikan. The reason we beat them (Skyview in the round-robin) was because our defense was there. We played a lot better this weekend, even though there were a couple of games where we could have done better."
"We pulled it out," Neussl said before the final. "We had more confidence and it was a matter of going out and playing. We didn't know these teams, so all we could do was go play. With Skyview now they know what we have and we know what they have. We're two evenly matched teams."
Juneau hits the road for the rest of the season. Juneau plays at Chugiak on Oct. 19, then goes to a tournament at Dimond and Service high schools in Anchorage on Oct. 20-21. Juneau closes out its Region V-Class 4A schedule Oct. 27-28 in Sitka, then heads to Craig for the Region V tournament on Nov. 3-4. If Juneau qualifies for state, the Clasas 4A state tournament will be Nov. 9-11 in Anchorage.