The Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears made quick work of the competition at this year's 18th annual Juneau Invitational Volleyball Tournament Extravaganza, not losing a single game en route to a 3-0 finals win on Saturday over Mt. Edgecumbe.
In the championship game, it was Bears middle hitter Sarah Tarver's net, and everyone else was just renting space. Tarver dominated the front line with a masterful performance. She was credited with nine stuffs, but Tarver repeatedly swatted shots back into the Braves' faces all night, putting on a block clinic for the big crowd in the JDHS main gym.
"I was just watching the ball and my teammates helped me by talking to me," she said afterward. "We were just playing really well, and that gave me a lot of confidence. We started slow but we picked it up and it was awesome; so much fun."
The Bears fell behind 19-9 in Game 1 after committing 10 early hitting errors when Tarver came alive. A stuff of Britley Calkins got JDHS headed in the right direction, igniting a 12-1 onslaught that saw the Bears tie the game at 20-all after two straight aces by Daffodil Alinson. A Tarver stuff gave JDHS its first lead since 8-7, and after a 24-24 tie, Krista Barril served up two straight aces to give the Bears Game 1, 26-24.
JDHS rolled to an early 9-3 lead in Game 2. The Braves cut it to three twice, but at 13-10, the Bears went on an 8-2 run that started with an Alinson set shot over the top of the defense. The run included three more Tarver stuffs, and it was all JDHS after that, with Brenna Johanson's kill attempt on game point flying into the net.
Game 3 was more of the same. Leading 12-9, the Bears scored 6 straight to open up an 18-9 lead, and it was all academic after that. For good measure, Tarver uncorked a big kill into the corner and then, fittingly, stuffed Nicole Pingayak on match point.
"We've been working with her and talking to her about taking the attitude that, 'You own the net,'" coach Sandi Wagner said about her junior middle hitter. "She owned the net tonight."
Bears start slow in semis
In the Gold Bracket semifinals against Ketchikan, the Bears started sluggishly, but swept the best-of-three match 25-23, 25-14. After leading Game 1 5-3, the Kings scored 8-of-9 to take an 11-7 lead. Four JDHS hitting errors and two aces keyed the Ketchikan run. But after a Sarah Clark stuff made 12-7, Kings, the Bears scored eight straight.
A Ketchikan net violation started the run, but Alinson followed with a wipe and then came a big stuff by Tarver. Maria Weyhrauch got into the act with a stuff, and a Crystal Covault kill attempt sailed out of bounds, tying the game at 12-all. Kalea Chapman aced a serve to give the Bears a lead they never relinquished.
The Kings kept it close down the stretch, even closing within 1, 24-23, on match point after a nasty kill by Arroon Duncanson, but Tarver returned the favor on on the next point, smashing a shot off Chelsea Paulsen in the back row.
The Bears owned Game 2, shooting out to a 7-2 lead after scoring six straight points, including a tag-team stuff of Duncanson by Tarver and Krista Barril, and an emphatic wipe by Barril.
The Kings closed within 2 at 11-9, but the Bears blew it open with a 6-1 run after Alinson got things going with a free ball stuff, and the Bears won going away.
TMHS falls in Bronze finals
Thunder Mountain, meanwhile, dropped the Bronze Bracket championship match to Haines, 25-21, 26-24. The Falcons went 2-4 on Friday, and defeated the Porter Creek JV team 25-13, 25-15 to earn a shot at Haines in the Bronze final.
The first game saw eight ties in the early going, but the Glacier Bears began to slowly pull away after scoring four straight points to move ahead 13-9. The Falcons answered with three straight, with Jeslie Villaverde and Hannah Wilwert notching back-to-back kills, but that was as close as TMHS would get.
Leading 24-21, Haines closed with a net violation score and a monster kill by Carlee Heinmiller on game point.
TMHS had a 24-18 lead in Game 2, but Haines' Heinmiller served up eight straight points, and Riley Erikson laced a kill on match point.
Despite the Game 2 collapse, TMHS coach Adriana Rodriguez felt like the tournament was a great experience for her young Falcons.
"They played hard the whole time," she said. "What's important is that they feel really good about their game. The few that didn't go so well, all of them knew why. They're getting to the point where they're understanding the mistakes they're making and trying to self correct instead of looking over at me.
"They're getting into a good rhythm and communicating as a team, and they're understanding that it's OK to make mistakes, which is important. This weekend was an outstanding opportunity for our team to play a lot of games, and I think it was a great start for the next few weekends. Winning a couple of games, I saw our confidence skyrocket."