The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team accomplished one of its season goals Wednesday night, sweeping the Ketchikan Kings, 15-7, 15-2, 15-3, to claim the regular-season Region V-Class 4A title.
But the Crimson Bears are looking for more.
"We're looking to go 8-0," said Juneau junior middle blocker Amy Neussl, whose goal of a perfect region record was echoed by several teammates. "It's important to go to regions on a winning note."
The Crimson Bears improved to 9-4 overall and 5-0 region with the victory, while Ketchikan dropped to 12-6 overall and 4-3 in region play. Even if Juneau were to lose its last three region matches this weekend, the best Ketchikan could do is a tie and Juneau holds a head-to-head tie-breaker advantage.
"We were right on, with a lot more confidence," Juneau sophomore Julie Heard said. "Our team goal is to go 8-0, to pull it out and get ready for regions."
The two teams play again at 6 p.m. tonight at the Juneau-Douglas High School main gym. Juneau also hosts Sitka at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights to close out its regular-season schedule. The Region V-Class 4A tournament is Nov. 1-3 in Wrangell.
In Wednesday night's match, which didn't start until 8:30 p.m., the Crimson Bears made short work of the Kings. The match took 50 minutes, with most of that time spent in the first game. Juneau has played several five-game matches this season that have lasted just under three hours.
"We're happy with the way we played tonight," Neussl said. "We came in with a lot of desire. We wanted to win quick, especially since it's a school night."
Ketchikan was originally supposed to play its two matches in Juneau on Sept. 14-15, but the Kings were stranded in Fairbanks when planes stopped flying after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. This week had the only make-up dates available for both teams, and Ketchikan took a late flight to Juneau so its players wouldn't miss school Wednesday.
"We got in about 7:45 p.m.," Ketchikan coach Naomi Michalsen said. "We stopped in Sitka and we probably had too much food. The team we have, this is the first time a lot of them have played together. We're missing two starters (Anne Elliott and Jonnae Ostrom) who should be back by regions. We have some new players on the team who came up from the JV and they haven't played together much with the rest of the varsity."
Juneau took a 6-1 lead in the first game, but Ketchikan fought back to close within 6-5 and 8-6 deficits. Kelly Baxter then served two straight aces and that started the Crimson Bears on a roll that lasted the rest of the match. Juneau outscored Ketchikan 7-1 to close out the first game.
Juneau fell behind 1-0 in the second game, but won the next 12 points for a 12-1 lead. In the third game, the Crimson Bears made several substitutions as they took a 12-0 lead. But Krista Heard and Morgan Zidek-Ledington, who hadn't played in the first two games, both served aces immediately after entering the match to keep the momentum on Juneau's side.
"As the court got pumped up, the bench got pumped up, too," Krista Heard said. "They just got off the plane, so they may have been feeling the travel. But it was good to get it over quick."
"We know how they feel," Juneau setter Callan Janowiec said of Ketchikan's playing less than an hour after getting off the plane. "Our passing was great."
Baxter led Juneau with eight kills and four aces. Neussl and Anna Capacci both had six kills and three aces, while Brenna Asper-Smith had five kills and two solo blocks. Sarah Bixby served four aces, Zidek-Ledington had two aces, Janowiec made 12 digs and Julie Heard added eight digs.
"Our passing was amazing," Neussl said. "We were able to run some of our quick offenses and that makes us a lot better. People were serving tough. We're excited about this week."
Zeta Moss led Ketchikan with three kills and three blocks, while Lindsey Bolling had three kills and two blocks, Krystin Willburn had two kills and an ace, and Patricia McClory added two blocks.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.