The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team's Tuesday practice kick-started with little wasted motion.
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Crimson Bears coach Sandi Wagner got her team moving immediately. Players set to a teammate, who spiked the ball then sprinted to the other court to do it all again.
This particular perpetual-motion machine is a pretty fun to watch. It also shows the intensity the Bears need to compete against Alaska's high-caliber teams.
"This drill is really good," JDHS back row player Carly Lehnhart said. "Right after you pass, you're the hitter, then you have to run and keep it moving like a game pace. We've been doing game situations with team defense and team attacks. Just working with the team in a game situation is helping a lot."
Intensity is sure to be a key this week as Juneau-Douglas' arduous schedule features a trip to Anchorage. The Crimson Bears will take on Service at 6 p.m. Thursday followed by the Service/Dimond Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
The Dimond High School Lynx are currently undefeated.
The trip to Anchorage follows a trend this season for the Bears - playing tough competition.
Two weeks ago, Juneau-Douglas took third against a stacked field at its own Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza tournament on Oct. 5-6. Defending small-school state champs Cordova won the event while Colony placed second.
JDHS fell to both teams, but gained encouragement by the way it battled in a 25-23, 25-18 loss to the Knights.
"We played as a team," middle hitter Rachel Peyton said. "It showed us how ... playing against a team that's at a more difficult level brings out your better qualities."
One of the keys to lifting the team's intensity and spirits is a powerfully placed kill.
A big spike can turn the tide of a game, and fire up the troops.
"I think when our hits are in, that's what gets our team pumped," Lehnhart said. "Passing and digging don't really get the team that pumped, it's the kills that bring the team up. The passing, digging, hitting and setting are all equally important and equally a problem when it's not there - but hitting, out of all of them, helps the most."
While spikes can provide a momentary lift, nothing replaces a consistent, intense effort on every play.
"This year we're concentrating on being mindful and ending the day better than you were earlier," Peyton said. "We're just concentrating on improvement."
This week starts the home stretch of Juneau-Douglas' volleyball season.
Following the Service/Dimond Tournament, the Crimson Bears will host senior night and two important matches with Ketchikan on Oct. 26-27. After the Kings, JDHS will compete in the Class 4A Southeast Conference Tournament on Nov. 1-3 in Petersburg.
For now, however, the Bears must be mindful of the task ahead of them.
"They're two different things," Juneau senior Gloria Lumba said of the tournament and next weekend's series versus Ketchikan. "I think we have to be more ready for the tournament in Anchorage instead of Ketchikan."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.