PALMER - Experience counts, especially when up 2-0 against one of the better teams in the state.
Colony learned this lesson the hard way at home Thursday, jumping to a quick two-game lead on the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears before losing 3-2 (25-8, 25-18, 13-25, 16-25, 15-17) in five sets. With 10 of 11 varsity players seniors, the Bears didn't lose composure when the Knights had them down. For Colony, a relatively young squad with four seniors, putting a match away is still a challenge.
"Juneau's a good team and picked up their play, but our struggle is finishing and being able to keep it together," Colony coach Amy Carter said.
While the match finished on a disappointing note for the Knights, it was all Colony at the start. The Knights dominated Juneau-Douglas in Game 1. Already up 4-1, captain Laura Maresh, who finished the match with five aces, served up nine straight points for a commanding 14-2 lead. A pair of Shellina Irwin aces put the game out of reach at 19-3.
Irwin continued as a stalwart for the Knights, recording 17 kills, four aces and eight digs over the five games.
That first game shows that Colony, which hadn't been in a five-game match until Thursday, can play with anyone in the state at any given time.
Carter's players "were ready, that's for sure," she said. "That's what I see in practice on a regular basis."
Keeping that domination up is the next challenge, Carter said. She saw some of that in the second game, a 25-18 Colony win punctuated by a pair of Allison Leigh aces to close out. But while the Knights were up 2-0 and on a roll, Juneau-Douglas turned the tables in the third game.
Colony took an early 6-4 lead on a Kathryn Mayer kill, but then the Crimson Bears finally came out of hibernation, outscoring the Knights 17-3 for a 21-9 lead, including a string of seven straight service points for Juneau-Douglas' Kalea Chapman.
What happened between games two and three to make the Knights to lose their edge is a mystery to Carter.
"We basically stopped calling the ball and couldn't get back under it," she said. "We've done that against Wasilla."
Although the Crimson Bears found some life in the third game, Colony still had a chance to put Juneau-Douglas away in the fourth set. With the Bears leading 17-16, Vika Toetuu stepped up to serve seven straight points to put the game away.
In the deciding game, both teams gave away several side-outs, but Juneau-Douglas put it away late to win the match 17-15.
The Knights will have another chance to put away a game at Kodiak, where they play tonight and tomorrow.
Juneau-Douglas improved to 8-0, 6-0 on the year with the win before competing in the Service-Dimond volleyball tournament, where the Crimson Bears finished third out of 20 teams.
South Anchorage defeated Dimond 25-22, 25-22 in the title match.
Falcons win Silver
Thunder Mountain finished up an all-comers tournament in Sitka on Saturday, knocking off Skagway 29-27, 25-11 in the championship game of the Silver Bracket. Check Monday's Juneau Empire sports section for full results from the weekend's tournament.