The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team played well enough to finish in the top half of the field at the 24-team Service-Dimond Tournament held Friday and Saturday in Anchorage.
But the Crimson Bears struggled against some teams they'd already beaten this year and that left Juneau co-coach Dale Bontrager feeling like the team could have done more.
"I think we could have done a lot better. I think we played mediocre volleyball," Bontrager said. "I think we had a lot higher expectations, or talent, than we showed."
Juneau finished second in its first round-robin pool-play group, losing to Skyview (15-13, 15-10) while beating Chugiak (15-13, 15-4) and splitting with Grace Christian (10-15, 15-3) in two-game mini-matches on Friday. The 24 varsity teams were split into six four-team round-robin pools on Friday, with the top two teams in each pool staying in contention for the title in the championship bracket while the bottom two teams moved to a consolation bracket.
On Saturday morning, Juneau lost a pool-play match to eventual tournament champion Valdez (15-5, 15-10) and beat Bartlett (17-15, 15-13) to earn a spot in the tournament's Silver Bracket. Valdez, the winner of the pool, joined the other three winners of the championship bracket pools in the Gold Bracket, where they played for the tournament title.
Valdez, a Class 3A team, swept defending Class 4A state champion Service (15-9, 15-4, 15-6) to win the tournament title, while Wasilla needed five games to beat Palmer in the match for third place (15-1, 9-15, 15-1, 13-15, 15-12). In the semifinals, Valdez and Wasilla played a three-game match that lasted more than two hours, while Service beat Palmer.
The other eight teams from the championship bracket went into the Silver Bracket, where they played a single-elimination tournament for fifth through 12th places. Juneau lost its Silver Bracket match to Kodiak (15-3, 16-14) and finished in a four-way tie for ninth place. Earlier this year, Juneau beat Skyview in Skyview and swept Kodiak in the championship match of the Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza (JIVE) tournament.
"We need to regroup, but I'm sure we won't be deflated," Bontrager said, adding that the team had a lengthy meeting Saturday night after being eliminated. "We got refocussed and we figured out some things that were going on. I think we were having problems with confidence and we were worrying about how we were doing in the tournament instead of just playing our game."
Amy Neussl was Juneau's only player named to the all-tournament team after recording 33 kills, nine solo blocks, two block assists, 18 digs and serving six aces to lead the Crimson Bears (8-4 overall). Kelly Baxter added 35 kills, eight aces and 32 digs for Juneau, while Callan Janowiec had 37 digs and five aces as she handled most of the team's setting duties. Neussl, Baxter and Janowiec missed the match with Valdez because they were taking the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test on Saturday.
Other leaders in the tournament for the Crimson Bears included Anna Capacci with 30 kills, 34 digs and three aces; Devra Roberts with 21 kills; Brenna Asper-Smith with 30 kills, four solo blocks and eight block assists; Sarah Bixby with four aces and 22 digs; and Julie Heard with six aces, 15 kills, 35 digs, three solo blocks and five block assists.
Juneau hosts four Region V-Class 4A varsity matches this week to close out its regular season.
Juneau plays at about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and about 6 p.m. Thursday night against Ketchikan in make-ups of two matches postponed in September because of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. The Crimson Bears also play about 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night against Sitka. Juneau's junior varsity and C teams will host a 12-team All-Comers Tournament on Friday and Saturday. The match times are tentative because Juneau co-coach Sandi Wagner is still waiting to find out exactly what time the visiting teams arrive in Juneau so she can set brackets.
"I think it definitely will be tiring for the kids," Bontrager said of this week's schedule. "Part of the problem we had this weekend was we had quite a stretch with no games before we went up there. We didn't get to play our match with Cordova (on Wednesday), so we weren't ready when we played Colony (on Thursday). We lost the first two games of the Colony match and I thought it was kind of a moral victory when we came back to force it into a fifth game, but I guess the loss affected the kids' confidence more than we thought it did."
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