The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team has a history of playing close matches with the Colony Knights, but coming up on the short end of the score.
On Saturday night, the Crimson Bears met the Knights in the title match of the 14th annual Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza and won. Juneau claimed its second straight JIVE championship with a 25-21, 25-21, 18-25, 25-20 victory.
The last two times Juneau met Colony at the state tournament the Knights won - in the third-fifth place match last year and in the semifinals two years ago. Colony also beat Juneau in the JIVE championship match two years ago. Saturday's loss was Colony's first loss of the season in a best-of-five-game match.
"They're always a good team. They have a strong team," said Juneau senior middle hitter Lesley Kalbrener, who was one of three Crimson Bears to make the all-tournament team. "They've got great defense."
Joining Kalbrener on the all-tournament team were senior middle hitter Jillian Hahnlen and junior outside hitter Sarah Christianson. Also making the all-tournament team were Kelsy Joynt and Jordan Pokryfki of Colony, Sarah Morris of Mount Edgecumbe, Janna Tait of Vanier Catholic School of Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Amy Versteeg of Wrangell, Rikki Versteeg of Petersburg, Kelsey Hawley of Cordova, Aja Bryant of Ketchikan and Kyle Jennings of Chugiak. Petersburg won the consolation bracket with a 25-12, 13-25, 15-12 victory over Wrangell.
This year's JIVE featured 13 teams, which was a nice change from last year's scaled-down eight-team tourney that only had Southeast schools. This year, Colony, Chugiak and Cordova came from the Southcentral part of Alaska and Vanier Catholic and Porter Creek came from Whitehorse.
"It was nice to have 13 teams compared to last year," senior defensive specialist Alycia Cox said. "It gets us a bunch of different (styles) to learn. Chugiak ran some quicks and Cordova shoots a lot. They all played different."
The Crimson Bears, whose only losses came during a trip to Washington, didn't lose a game as they made their way through three brackets to reach the finals. Juneau went 4-0 in its first batch of round-robin pool games, then went 6-0 in its second batch of round-robin pool games.
That put the Crimson Bears into the top seed for the gold bracket, with Colony the other top seed. Juneau beat Sitka 25-7, 25-7 in the quarterfinals, then knocked off Ketchikan 25-9, 25-19 in the semis to reach the title match. Colony beat Vanier Catholic 25-20, 25-8 and knocked off Cordova 23-25, 25-14, 15-12 to reach the title match.
"I think we played really well, even though we got into a little slump at the end," Christianson said.
While going unbeaten in the early pools, the Crimson Bears did have lulls in play that worried some players. For example, Juneau fell behind 7-0 in the second game against Vanier Christian during pool play before digging itself out of the hole. Juneau also struggled in the second game of its match with Porter Creek on Friday night.
"I think in the beginning, yesterday, we were a little anxious and too excited," senior setter Hannah Barril said. "We just had to relax and play our game."
"I think as a team we're working together. But we're definitely not playing as good as we can," senior setter Katie Monagle said. "We have to have confidence in ourselves."
In the championship victory, Christianson led Juneau with 10 kills and 13 digs, while Sara Manning had 10 kills and seven digs, Hahnlen had 14 kills and two solo blocks, Kalbrener recorded 13 kills, Torie Powers served four aces and had nine digs, Cox had two aces and 11 digs, Barril added an ace and 14 digs and Marita Rodriguez had eight digs.
Joynt led Colony with 17 kills and six digs, while Pokryfki had 21 assists, Hallie Huggins had nine kills and 13 digs, Hannah Curtis had three blocks and three kills and Desi Diselrod had 11 assists.
The Crimson Bears head up to Colony later this week for a Thursday match before both teams take part in the annual Service-Dimond Invitational, which is the largest inseason tournament before state.
"We're ready. It'll be our home advantage," Huggins said. "I know we can (beat Juneau). I think we were just tired. We played a lot today."