Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball fans got a long, last look at their 2004 varsity squad on Saturday night - though that wasn't necessarily what the Crimson Bears had hoped for in their final home matches.
After cruising to an easy three-game sweep of Sitka on Friday night, the Crimson Bears were pushed to the brink by a more resilient Wolves squad on Saturday before rebounding for a 24-26, 25-27, 25-11, 25-17, 15-8 victory at the JDHS main gym.
"We were a little overconfident in the beginning," said Juneau junior Lesley Kalbrener, whose team beat Sitka 25-14, 25-6, 25-17 on Friday night. "Last night, we took them out of their game. Tonight, they took us out of our game - but we pulled it out."
With the wins, Juneau improved to 16-0 this season in best three-of-five matches. The Crimson Bears have not lost a Region V-Class 4A match since 2000.
But that streak nearly ended on Saturday, which was Senior Night for the Crimson Bears. Juneau went up 22-13 in the first game before Sitka stormed back with strong serving from Nastasha Robidou and Tawny Hoyt. Hoyt's ace tied the game at 23-all, and Juneau errors helped the Wolves post the win.
After Sitka claimed a close second game, Juneau rallied - buoyed by a boisterous crowd.
"It definitely gets the crowd and us more pumped when you have to fight for the win," said senior Amber Johnson.
"They showed a lot of character, both on and off the court," Juneau coach Sandi Wagner said of her team. "The bench was extremely supportive."
After a relatively easy win in the third game, Juneau took a 20-6 lead in the fourth game before letting Sitka rally. The Wolves made it 24-17 Juneau before Kalbrener ended the game with a kill.
The decisive fifth game was tied 8-all, but Juneau pulled away with the help of key kills from junior Jillian Hahnlen and sophomore Sarah Christianson.
Junior Rochele Rodman had 17 digs and was 26-for-26 serving for Juneau on Saturday - and 47-for-47 serving over the two nights. Junior Hannah Barril was 19-for-19 serving with five aces. Kalbrener had 20 kills, Hahnlen had 19 and Christianson added 16 kills for the Crimson Bears
Sitka coach Jamie Cabral said some minor adjustments allowed his squad to give Juneau all it could handle.
"Last night we could not find our rhythm. We didn't get our hitters the ball," Cabral said Saturday. "Tonight, we switched our outside hitters to different starting spots, and they did much better. Ball control was much better."
The Crimson Bears, who hold the top seed going into the Southeast Class 3A/4A tournament on November 11-13 in Craig, now have motivation to stay focused for the matches ahead.
"Now we know how close the competition is," senior Megan Treston said. Sitka and Ketchikan "are going to want to beat us at region. We're going to have to really work."
On Friday, Sitka stayed close through the midway point of the first game. Juneau's lead narrowed to 11-10 as a number of Crimson Bear kill attempts landed just out of bounds, while Sitka got steady serving from Emma Edson.
But Juneau went on an 8-0 run - aided by 7-for-7 serving and an ace from Johnson - to put the game away.
The Crimson Bears cruised in the second game as Rodman went 13-for-13 serving with an ace. Rodman started serving with Juneau ahead 8-3, and when Sitka finally broke her serve - a Juneau kill attempt sailed out of bounds - the Crimson Bears were ahead 19-4 and never were threatened.
In Friday's third and final game, Sitka battled back from early deficits of 13-5 and 16-8, and cut Juneau's lead to three points -- 19-16 - before Hahnlen made a pair of kills to lead the Crimson Bears to the sweep.
Hahnlen finished with 16 kills and two blocks in Friday's games. Kalbrener had eight kills and a block, Christianson had three kills and nine digs, junior Alycia Cox had 11 digs and Rodman had eight digs.
Rodman finished the night 21-for-21 serving with an ace, while Cox went 15-for-16 with four aces and Johnson was 13-for-14 with two aces.
Juneau's junior varsity and C teams will host teams from across Southeast next weekend for the All-Comers Tournament.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.