The Kayhi volleyball team matched Southeast-champion Juneau-Douglas shot-for-shot for one game Friday, building a 24-22 game-point lead.
But once the Crimson Bears rallied for a 26-24 win in game one, they cruised to a 26-24, 25-8, 25-9 victory over the Lady Kings in the first of two weekend matches at Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.
"When we didn't win, even though they should feel proud of that game, something inside of them kind of played timid," Kayhi coach Naomi Michalsen said. "We just couldn't bounce back."
Kayhi played inspired volleyball in game one. After trailing for most of the game, the Lady Kings knotted the score at 15-15 on a Juneau error.
An ace from junior Desiray Smith gave Kayhi a 16-15 lead - its first since holding a 2-1 advantage. Juneau tied the game at 16-16, but junior Crystal Covault put Kayhi ahead with a tip one point later.
The teams traded points until a kill from sophomore Aroon Duncanson put Kayhi ahead 20-19 and forced the Crimson Bears to take a timeout.
The Lady Kings built a 23-21 advantage out of the break on an ace from junior Chelsea Paulsen and an error by Juneau. The Crimson Bears got a point when Kayhi sophomore Brianna McLaughlin, diving to save an errant shot, barely slid under the net. But the Kings took a 24-22 lead on a thunderous kill from Duncanson off a set from McLaughlin on the next point.
Juneau stole the win by scoring the next four points, the last two on a block and a kill from junior Sarah Tarver.
The win gave Juneau the Southeast Conference championship.
"We played scared, we played tentative, but we put it together when we needed to," Juneau coach Sandi Wagner said. "Ketchikan played great that first game, I have to give them credit. They took us out of their game."
Games two and three got away from the Lady Kings in a hurry.
Juneau led 6-4 in game two before going on a 15-2 run to take a 21-6 lead. There were highlights - a kill by senior Kathleen Reno and a hustle play from junior Sarah Clark, who ranged far past the end line to save a shot that led to a point - but not nearly enough to keep Kayhi close.
The Lady Kings actually held early leads of 5-2 and 9-5 in game three, but Juneau scored the last 20 points to win 25-9.
"We need to control the ball a little better," Michalsen said. "I know we can, we practice those things ... any bit of hesitation from the girls, any bit of second guessing, it's doesn't work for us."
Kayhi was without senior Javani Steward, who missed time this week at a family wedding, in game one. McLaughlin stepped in at setter, and her play provided a bright spot for the Lady Kings.
McLaughlin "had an amazing night," Michalsen said. "She did an awesome job ... a lot of pressure, she handled it well, extremely well. She earned a spot to regionals."
More from Saturday's match will appear in Monday's Empire.