The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team didn't get much of a chance to savor its victory in last weekend's Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza (JIVE Tournament).
The undefeated Crimson Bears headed north early this morning for a match against East Anchorage High School tonight. Juneau then goes across town to play in the Service-Dimond Tournament on Friday and Saturday, a tournament so large it has matches scattered at three different schools for the varsity level, and seven schools with the junior varsity and C team brackets.
The Crimson Bears will be the only Southeast team in the 23-team varsity part of the Service-Dimond Tournament, and they'll be among the favorites. The Juneau players are looking forward to the trip, since it will give them one more chance to see the state's top teams before the Class 4A state tournament Nov. 14-16 at West Anchorage High School. Juneau's JV and C teams will be in Ketchikan this weekend for the Ketchikan Small Schools Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
"There never is (time to savor the JIVE victory)," Juneau senior middle blocker Amy Neussl said. "We're excited. It's going to be a lot different this time, because the other teams are going to be looking at us. They're going to be good."
"It'll be fun," Juneau senior setter-outside hitter Ryia Waldern said.
Juneau is 11-0 this season in best three-out-of-five-game matches and 60-4 in individual games (including round-robin pool-play in tournaments). The Crimson Bears are the state's only undefeated Class 4A team, with three-game sweep victories over defending state champion Wasilla and top contenders Bartlett and Dimond earlier this season. Juneau needed five games to beat Service, which has won three of the last five state titles (1997, 1999 and 2000). In the championship of last weekend's JIVE Tournament, Juneau beat Chugiak in four games.
"This will be a good weekend for us, because we can see more teams," Juneau senior outside hitter Kelly Baxter said. "We played pretty well last weekend (in the JIVE), but I'm sure we have some things we can work on. I don't think any team this year is really sticking out."
The Crimson Bears are undefeated, but during practice this week the players looked very tired. Juneau's coaches - Sandi Wagner, Dale Bontrager and Pat Gorman - ended practice early a couple of times, and the team cheer at the end of Tuesday's practice was "Sleep!" rather than the usual "Crimson Bears!" or "Team."
Other than Juneau, the only team up north that's been consistent this fall has been Palmer, which is 15-1 after sweeping Service on Wednesday. The victory avenged Palmer's only loss of the year.
The state's other top contenders have been taking turns knocking each other off, as Bartlett and Chugiak have beaten Service, but both lost to Dimond, which lost twice to Service (15-4). In Wednesday's loss to Palmer, Service not only lost in three games, but the Cougars lost middle hitter Morgan Phillips for the rest of the season because of an ankle injury.
"We haven't seen a lot of them play," Juneau senior defensive specialist Nikki Bennett said of the competition up north. "It's been real interesting this year to see how the teams play from day to day. Like we beat Chugiak 15-4, 15-1 on Friday, but they came at us in the final and won the second game."
The East team Juneau plays tonight lost to Class 3A power Grace Christian School on Tuesday. East also lost to Chugiak last Tuesday.
At the Service-Dimond Tournament, Juneau will open play Friday in Pool B, which features Homer, Bartlett and Kenai Central. Because Pool C only has three teams in it, Juneau will play an extra two-game round-robin mini-match against Lathrop to help Lathrop get enough games in for seeding.
Homer swept Lathrop in three games last Friday, but lost in four games to Dimond on Saturday. Bartlett swept Chugiak last Thursday before the Mustangs came to Juneau for JIVE. Kenai played in the Lady Grizzly Invitational at Grace Christian School last weekend but didn't make the championship match, although it did put two players on the all-tournament team.
The teams from each of the six first-round pools then will advance to the Gold Pool (pool winners), the Silver Pool (next placers) or the Bronze Pool (pool losers). From there, the top teams will advance to placement matches with the championship at 6 p.m. Saturday at Service High School.
Last year, Juneau finished in the middle of the pack at the Service-Dimond Tournament as one of four teams tied for ninth place. The Crimson Bears went on to finish third in the state tournament.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.