ANCHORAGE - Another day, another five-game match for the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team.
The Crimson Bears were taken to a decisive fifth game for the second straight day, but this time Juneau won as it knocked off the East Anchorage Thunderbirds 17-25, 25-17, 25-18, 22-25, 15-12 Thursday night at East Anchorage High School.
"We dug deep and pulled it out," said Juneau senior outside hitter Julie Heard, who led the Crimson Bears with 22 kills.
On Wednesday, the Crimson Bears dropped a five-game match to Bartlett in a rematch of last year's state championship match, falling behind early in the fifth game and not being able to catch back up.
This time, the Crimson Bears fell behind 4-1 but rallied to tie the fifth game at 6-6 and again at 7-7. Juneau then took a 10-7 lead as Heather Dillon made a kill and a block, but East rallied to tie the score at 11-11. East's Sola Lee served it into the net, and Juneau scored three of the next four points, winning on an ace by senior Karla Dunivin, who also had eight kills.
"We've got this team thing down," said Dillon, a senior who had five kills. "We have the bond."
"Every game we're getting closer and closer to (where we need to be for) state," Heard said.
The Crimson Bears (8-5 overall in best-of-five matches, 15-7 including best-of-three mini-matches) will play in the Service-Dimond Invitational today and Saturday. The tournament features 18 varsity teams and 22 junior varsity or small-school teams and is the state's largest in-season tourney. The Juneau players said they were happy to get a victory before the tournament started.
"We hit a lot smarter than the other game and we passed well," Dunivin said.
"Our focus is to be ready when we take the court," Heard said. "I think we played really well."
The Thunderbirds (5-7 in best-of-five matches) came into the match with an unsettled coaching situation, as University of Alaska Anchorage assistant coach Shana Askew, a teacher at East, took over the team just last Friday after the previous coach, Scott Stowe, was released by the school. Askew said East's loss to Region IV-leading Service on Tuesday was the first time she'd seen her team play.
In contrast, Juneau has one of the state's more stable coaching situations as Sandi Wagner (18 years), Dale Bontrager (18) and Pat Gorman (15) have a combined 51 years with the Crimson Bears.
"I can coach, but I'm just learning the situation," said Askew, a former UAA setter. "We played great on Tuesday and we played hard today. We've got some things to work on, though."
In the first game, it was Juneau's squad that looked out of synch as the Crimson Bears had trouble making accurate passes and even had players run into each other on a couple of plays. After Juneau jumped out to a 4-2 lead, East rallied for a 15-7 advantage. Juneau closed the gap to 17-13, but couldn't get any closer as the game ended on a carry call by sophomore setter Rochele Rodman.
The Crimson Bears adjusted their rotation to get a couple of better matchups for the second game - getting more height on the wings against East's short outside hitters - and looked much sharper. Juneau trailed 6-5, but rallied for a 20-10 lead. East closed things up toward the end, but the Crimson Bears won the game on a kill by Dillon.
Juneau and East were tied 8-8 in the third game, when Juneau pulled ahead 12-8 and 17-12. The T-Birds tied it at 18-18 as Juneau struggled with its passing, but the Crimson Bears straightened the problems out and won the game on a kill by Heard.
In the fourth game, Juneau jumped out to a 5-0 lead but East rallied to tie the game at 11-11. The game was still tied at 17-17, but East took the lead on a kill by Sammi Lundeby and never trailed again as the game ended on a kill into the net by Dunivin.
In junior varsity action, Juneau beat East 25-23, 25-20 in a best-of-three match.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.