When the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team won last weekend's Service-Dimond Invitational Tournament, the Crimson Bears showed they can play at a level above the best teams in the state.
With the Sitka Wolves coming to town this weekend, Juneau will try to maintain its finely honed edge as the teams close out the Region V-Class 4A regular season. The varsity matches will start about 8 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday nights at the JDHS main gymnasium, following the C Team matches at 4:15 p.m. and the junior varsity at 6 p.m.
Juneau is coming off one of the best victories in team history as all of the state's top Class 4A and Class 3A teams were at the Service-Dimond tournament. The Crimson Bears had never won the Service-Dimond tourney before, and the victory came just one weekend after Juneau won its own Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza (JIVE Tournament) for just the third time in its 12-year history.
"We played really, really well last week," Juneau senior outside hitter Kelly Baxter said. "There are always ways we can improve, but that championship game (a sweep over Region IV leader Dimond) was at least one of the best ones we've played all season. Everyone knew we were playing well, and they wanted to beat us. We just didn't let it happen."
The Crimson Bears are undefeated in best-three-out-of-five-game matches this season, posting a 13-0 overall record, 6-0 in Region V-4A. Juneau has posted a 79-5 record in all of its games, including two-game round-robin pool-play mini-matches at tournaments.
Juneau is hoping to avoid a letdown when it plays Sitka this weekend, especially since the Wolves struggled when they were last in Juneau two weeks ago.
"I hope we do good," Juneau sophomore middle blocker Megan Treston said. "I hope we don't have a letdown. Last week wasn't anything like Southeast."
"It was fun," Juneau senior defensive specialist Nikki Bennett said. "We'll do fine, as long as we play together."
Sitka, which didn't attend the Service-Dimond tourney or the Ketchikan Small Schools Tournament last weekend, is 3-4 overall and 2-4 in Region V-4A play. The Wolves finished seventh out of seven teams two weekends ago at the JIVE Tournament, posting a 3-9 record in round-robin pool-play mini-matches before losing a best-two-of-three-game match to Class 3A Mount Edgecumbe.
"It'll definitely be a little slower," Baxter said as she compared the Sitka matches to the pace of the teams in Anchorage. "But if we're prepared for it, we should do OK."
The Crimson Bears sent four junior varsity and C Team squads to the Ketchikan tournament, with Juneau's top JV team losing in five games in the semifinals to Ketchikan's top team (which included almost all of its varsity players). The Craig varsity, a Class 3A team, went on to beat Ketchikan in the championship match.
Juneau will host its annual All-Comers Tournament next weekend to close out the regular season, but the Crimson Bears co-coach Dale Bontrager said the coaches might mix some of Juneau's varsity players with JV players for that event.
Juneau has already clinched the top seed and its accompanying first-round bye in the Region V-Class 4A tournament, which takes place Nov. 8-9 at Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka. The Wolves will play Ketchikan (4-7 overall, 2-6 region) in the first round of the double-elimination tournament, with the winner advancing to play Juneau in the next round.
The Region V-4A winner will go to the Class 4A state tournament on Nov. 14-16 at West Anchorage High School. Juneau has been to the state tournament 14 straight years, taking third place last year. The Crimson Bears' best finish at state is second place in the 1999 state tournament.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.