ANCHORAGE - When she looked across the court and saw the red, white and black uniforms of the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team, Bartlett senior Meghan Hunsaker didn't care that her Golden Bears had already played Juneau once this season.
All that mattered to Hunsaker was Juneau was the defending state champion and the Crimson Bears beat her team in last year's state championship match.
"All I could think about was state and how I wanted revenge," Hunsaker said after her Golden Bears claimed a 20-25, 25-22, 24-26, 25-21, 15-8 victory Wednesday night at Bartlett High School.
Hunsaker recorded seven kills and 12 solo blocks to lead Bartlett, which beat Juneau for the second time this year in a best-of-five match. Earlier this season, Bartlett beat Juneau in four games to win the title of the two-day Peninsula Challenge tournament in Homer.
"I wasn't at Homer," Hunsaker said. "The rest of the team had seen them, but I didn't get to see them at Homer so this was my first rematch."
The Crimson Bears nearly didn't give Hunsaker her feeling of revenge.
Juneau won two of the first three games and led 10-8 midway through the fourth game before a case of the yips - shanked passes and kills into the net - helped Bartlett rally for six straight points. Juneau rallied to tie the fourth game at 14-14, but the Golden Bears (8-2 overall) ran off another seven straight points for a 21-14 lead. The Crimson Bears pulled within 22-21, but Bartlett closed out the game and forced a decisive fifth game.
In the fifth game, Nikki Moss notched three of her team-high 13 kills for Bartlett, which jumped out to a 10-2 lead before Juneau settled down and pulled within 12-8. But the Crimson Bears couldn't pull any closer, and Bartlett closed out the match when a Juneau player went into the net and then the Crimson Bears couldn't handle Bartlett's serve on match point.
Despite the loss, the Juneau players felt they'd made progress since the Homer tournament. Juneau has a young roster with seven sophomores and one junior among its 11 players, so the Crimson Bears are still a work in progress.
"It's disappointing, but it taught us so much," said sophomore middle blocker Lesley Kalbrener, who had 11 kills for Juneau. "We've definitely picked it up since the last time we saw them. Each time out we're improving so drastically. We'll get them next time."
"I think we've improved a lot," said senior outside hitter Karla Dunivin, who had 13 kills and three aces for the Crimson Bears. "Everyone keeps getting better. It's better to work out the kinks now, then at state."
Senior outside hitter Julie Heard recorded 15 kills and four aces to lead Juneau, which fell to 7-5 in best-of-five matches and 14-7 combined in best-of-five and best-of-three matches. Junior outside hitter Amber Johnson served three aces for the Crimson Bears.
Besides Hunsaker and Moss, Bartlett picked up 11 kills and two aces from Amanda Foe and Vanessa Campbell had seven kills and eight solo blocks.
In the first game, Juneau jumped out to an early three-point lead and held roughly that margin the rest of the game. The Crimson Bears led 5-2, were tied 6-6, then took a 10-7 lead and maintained it the rest of the way. Kalbrener and Sara Manning closed out the game for Juneau by blocking an attack by Foe.
In the second game, Juneau fell behind 4-0 early but rallied to tie the score. Bartlett took a 7-4 lead, but Juneau came back to tie it at 9-9 and 12-12 before the Crimson Bears took leads of 13-12, 14-13, 17-15 and 21-20. Bartlett rallied to score five of the game's final six points, clinching it on a kill by Brittany Hall.
Juneau jumped out to early 6-1 and 7-2 leads in the third game, and still led 14-11 and 19-14 when Bartlett rallied to tie the score at 24-24. The Crimson Bears got a needed sideout on a Dunivin kill, then won the game when Hunsaker sent a kill into the net.
In junior varsity action, the Crimson Bears beat Bartlett 25-16, 25-16, 19-25, 25-15.
The Crimson Bears will play at East Anchorage tonight, with the JV match scheduled to start about 6 p.m. and the varsity about 7 p.m. This weekend, Juneau will be among 18 varsity teams and 22 junior varsity teams competing in the Service-Dimond Invitational, which is the state's largest in-season volleyball tournament.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.