Two teams made it through round-robin and Gold Bracket play unscathed before facing off in the annual Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza championship match, and they put on a show for the raucus crowd at Juneau-Douglas High School.
Juneau-Douglas edged Eagle River in straight sets for the JIVE championship, rallying from eight down to stun the Wolves 25-23 in the first game before taking a second-set thriller, 30-28.
The teams traded punches at the net all night but in the end, the Crimson Bears' killer combination of senior middle hitters Sarah Tarver and Taylor Larson were too much up front.
Tarver had 16 kills on the night, while Larson powered down seven thunderous blasts to outduel Eagle River's Megan Harvey, who also was stellar with 11strong kills.
Eagle River was a buzzsaw in the early going of Game 1, scoring the first five points of the match before Tarver answered with a blast to put the Bears on the board. But JDHS was tentative as Eagle River's Lexis Curtis was smashing serves while Harvey laced shots all over the court, scoring a wipe and a kill into the corner for a 9-3 Wolves lead. After a hitting error on JDHS and a kill by Kathy Michalski, Eagle River went up 11-3.
Wolves' coach Katie Hulse said Eagle River caught the Bears off-guard early on.
"I think we just got a good run off in the beginning and surprised Juneau," she said. "I think my girls were fired up right at the beginning. But I think it was a really good match. They have really tough players and our team is a little short. I think they played awesome defense and it was a fun match that the girls probably learned a lot from."
Crimson Bears coach Sandi Wagner said the Wolves' tough serves had the Bears back on their heels.
"We were tentative and not sure of ourselves. These kids are good players and good athletes, but we don't play at that level very often," Wagner said, referring to the quality of Eagle River's team. "They were serving tough right off the bat and that doesn't happen to us very often. It took us a while to adjust to it. But they continued to play and it didn't matter what the score was. They fought back one point at a time."
Juneau-Douglas couldn't get a run of more than a point or two until another kill by Harvey pushed Eagle River ahead 16-9.
Tarver blasted a free ball by the Wolves, followed by an Eagle River hitting error, and then stuffed Harvey on a spike attempt. Another Wolves error made it 16-13, Eagle River. JDHS scored two straight, but the Wolves answered with two, forcing a JDHS time out, which coach Sandi Wagner seldom calls.
But it couldn't have come at a better time.
The Bears scored seven straight out of the timeout to take a 22-20 lead. Larson tied the game at 20 with a thunderous blast into the Wolves' defense.
Eagle River tied the game at 22-all, but Larson scored a soft slap shot and Daffodil Alinson scored a wipe off the blocker. JDHS was then called for a carry, but game point came on a shot out of bounds by Kristin Dulik.
"It was a close game for us. We got down and we were really thinking about our mistakes a lot," Larson said of the Bears' sluggish start. "We weren't picking up and getting our passes down. But then we just said, 'We've got to get it, guys. We need a side-out. This is our game and we're so much better than this.' We picked it up and played our game, and finally pulled it out there at the end."
The second set featured 13 ties and seven lead changes.
The Wolves went ahead 15-13, forcing a JDHS timeout. Again, it worked to perfection.
The Bears scored four straight out of the timeout to take a 17-15 lead. Tarver tipped a shot into the hole and scored a stuff of Michalski during the spurt.
Three straight points by the Wolves tied the game at 23. The teams traded points as neither could go up the necessary two points for the win, mostly because of hitting or service errors. Up 28-27 after a serve out by JDHS, Larson smashed a kill onto the back line. Two hitting errors on Eagle River ended the match.
Tarver tallied the most kills, but she said it's the team's hitting prowess as a whole that opens things up for her up front.
"A good thing about our team is that everybody can hit; not just the middles, not just the outsides but also the back," she said. "We have a lot of options, and that really helps. In the beginning we were kind of slow, but we picked it up and I had a lot of fun.
"It was intense."
JDHS is back in action next weekend in Ketchikan.
Check B2 for a full tournament scoreboard.
JDHS stops Sitka in semis
Juneau-Douglas breezed into the finals with a 25-15, 25-13 win over Sitka.
The teams traded points early, with JDHS taking taking a 3-2 lead after after vicious kills by senior middle hitter Sarah Tarver.
After a 3-all tie, the Crimson Bears scored 6 of 7 points to take a 9-4 lead. Amanda Roemeling skipped a shot down the net and over, and Tarver scored a block.
Megan Mauseth laced a back-row attack and Daffodil Alinson scored a kill. Two JDHS hitting errors stalled the Bears' momentum, but only briefly.
Larson blasted a monster kill, followed by Maria Weyhrauch's first of the match. Vika Toetuu aced a serve and Larson smashed another kill. A net violation made it 14-6, JDHS.
Sitka rallied with four points, one off a kill by Emily Inman and three off JDHS errors to pull within four, 14-10, but that was as close as the Wolves would get the rest of the way.
Roemeling blocked a freeball, and a Tarver dink made it 18-11, Bears. Up 19-14, JDHS closed with 6 of 7 points to win the game. Tarver scored a kill and a block, followed by kills by Alinson and Toetuu. Game point came on a Sitka carry.
Game 2 was more of the same.
Up 6-3, the Bears went on a tear, scoring seven straight and 11 of 14, including two more cannon blasts from Larson, and strong kills by Alinson and Tarver.
Larson provided more fireworks with a kill and a block to make it 21-11, JDHS, and Alinson scored another kill. Game point came on a Roemeling kill on the back line.
Eagle River tops East in semis
Things weren't going the Wolves way early in their semifinal matchup against the Thunderbirds, but Eagle River overcame a Game 1 loss to defeat East 23-25, 25-14, 15-12.
The Wolves seemed out of sync in Game 1, and the Thunderbirds capitalized, eventually making the most of Eagle River mistakes on the way to a 25-23 win.
But Eagle River responded in convincing fashion in Game 2. The Wolves fell behind early once again, 0-4, but this time they pushed back with the help of senior outside hitter Megan Harvey.
Harvey took the initiative as one of the team's captains and began dominating at the net. Her teammates continued to feed her the ball and she rewarded them with six huge kills in the second game on the way to a 25-14 win.
"We were making a lot of mistakes early, but in the second game we really brought it together as a team," Harvey said. "We push each other to go harder and we really encourage each other to try to keep it positive so we can win."
The Wolves didn't fall behind early in Game 3, and their dominance at the net continued. Harvey and junior middle hitter Kathy Michalski controlled play at the net, and Eagle River held off a late East charge to win 15-12 and earn a spot in the championship game against Juneau-Douglas.
Harvey also said this win was especially good for her team because the Thunderbirds always play the Wolves competitively.
"It's more intense, because we know them and we know how they play. It just makes us work harder," she said.
Eagle River coach Katie Hulse echoed that sentiment.
"It's always a bit of a fight with (East). I think our girls actually decided to step it up finally and realize they can do it," she said. "I'm just glad we came out on top. I think when they listen is when they play the best.
"Just the fact that they started listening and actually let us coach them was a big help," Hulse joked.
Sitka defeats Porter Creek
Sitka opened Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza Gold Bracket quarterfinal play Saturday with an impressive 25-13, 25-21 win over Whitehorse's Porter Creek after a hotly contested second game.
The Rams opened the game on a three-point run after three straight kills by Erin Borgford, Emily McDougall and Fiona Azizaj. But Sitka bounced back from the early deficit to take control of Game 1.
With the score tied 6-6, Sitka blew the doors open with a 19-7 run to finish the game with a final score of 25-13.
Sophomore middle hitter Stefania Potrzuski was key in the Wolves' surge, collecting two aces and several more kills to help her team. Junior defensive specialist Jaycie Saunders also contributed late to put the game out of reach with two more kills, including an emphatic slam on the second-to-last point.
Game 2 began in similar fashion as the first, with Porter Creek taking an early 3-0 lead. But once again, Sitka made a run.
Down by three points, the Wolves bounced back on an 8-0 push that forced Porter Creek to call a timeout. Still, Sitka was in control, eventually pushing the lead to 13-6.
But the Rams were not finished as they stormed back with a 10-3 run of their own to tie the Wolves at 16 apiece. Borgford went on a roll during that span, unleashing on an ace and three kills to keep her team alive. Porter Creek continued to push, and even took a late lead at 21-20, but Sitka responded with a 5-0 run to finish the match.
"It got a little bit close in the second game," Sitka coach Amy Jo Sparrowgrove said. "We had two girls taking the SATs, so we had a new rotation that actually dominated (Saturday) morning.
"Right now we're playing pretty well."
East defeats Mt. Edgecumbe
In the other Gold Bracket quarterfinal, East proved too athletic for Mt. Edgecumbe in a 25-16, 25-22 victory Saturday at Juneau-Douglas High School.
The Thunderbirds wasted no time in Game 1, storming out of the gates and not looking back on their way to an early 18-5 advantage. Junior Wenda Poleo and senior Katie Hinshaw were the catalysts for the East attack, combining for five kills and two aces during the opening run.
Mt. Edgecumbe did not go down easily, however, as they went on an 11-3 run before finally succumbing to the Thunderbirds.
The Braves opened up Game 2 much differently. This time they went on the attack and seemed to remove East from its comfort zone. Seniors Kristin Johanson and Kailyn Kashevarof were active all night for Mt. Edgecumbe, helping their team to a 17-12 lead at one point. But the Thunderbirds did not go away.
Poleo and Hinshaw were once again major factors in the final stretch as East finished on a 13-5 run to end the game, 25-22. Poleo had three kills and Hinshaw had an ace and kill of her own in the final 11 points of the game.
East Anchorage coach Jim Dooley said it was good to see his team execute what it had been practicing.
"We've been working on team's flow and everybody moving at the same time and doing the same thing as a unit," he said. "It wasn't really good in the middle of the game, but it got better as the game went on.
"But Mt. Edgecumbe is scrappy. They play great defense and don't make many mistakes."