After clinching the regular-season Region V-Class 4A title on Wednesday, the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team wanted to avoid a letdown when the Crimson Bears hosted the Ketchikan Kings on Thursday night.
There was no letdown to worry about as the Crimson Bears swept the Kings for the second straight night, 15-3, 15-4, 15-9. Juneau also swept Ketchikan in three games on Wednesday.
"We're still working on personal goals," Juneau senior outside hitter/middle blocker Morgan Zidek-Ledington said. "We were ready for anything. Our goal is to go 8-0 in region."
"I think both nights were pretty similar and we played real well," Juneau co-coach Dale Bontrager said. "We passed a lot better and our confidence was up. It's too bad Ketchikan was missing a couple of starters. Ketchikan fields a pretty strong team when they're at full strength. I don't think we've played them at full strength yet this year."
Juneau improved to 10-4 overall and 6-0 in Region V-Class 4A action with the victory, while Ketchikan closed out its regular season with records of 12-7 overall and 4-4 in region.
Juneau hosts Sitka (0-6 in region) at 8 p.m. tonight and Saturday to close out its regular season. In addition to the varsity matches, the Juneau junior varsity and C teams hosts a 17-team All-Comers Tournament starting at 3 p.m. today and at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The Crimson Bears then head to the Region V-Class 4A tournament Nov. 1-3 in Wrangell.
"If you compare Sitka to tonight's game, Sitka will be a little stronger outside and they've got Heather Hawk in the middle," Bontrager said. "Sitka's a little more experienced, but Ketchikan beat Sitka four times already."
The Crimson Bears, who won 15-7, 15-2, 15-3 on Wednesday, picked up where they left off in Thursday's match.
Juneau led 5-0 and 7-3 in the first game before closing out the game with eight straight points. In the second game, Ketchikan closed to within 5-2 before Juneau went on another eight-point run to put the game out of reach.
Only in the final game, when Juneau experimented with different lineups, did Ketchikan stay close for more than the first few points. Ketchikan led 9-8 midway through the game, but the Crimson Bears scored the final seven points to close out the match. Anna Capacci and Amy Neussl both had blocks to start the run and Krista Heard served two aces in Juneau's final string of points, which ended on a kill by Neussl.
"That game was good for us to experiment with different things," Juneau senior middle blocker Brenna Asper-Smith said, referring to such moves as playing senior outside hitter/middle blocker Devra Roberts at setter for a few points. "Because we were in different positions, we had to communicate more and help out. We were pretty consistent. We're still pumped to go 8-0. We wanted it. We were prepared for anything."
For many Juneau players, the season's high point was when the Crimson Bears didn't lose a game during its Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza (JIVE) tournament on Oct. 5-6. The Crimson Bears felt like they approached that level in the Ketchikan matches, but there's still room for improvement when they take on Sitka tonight and Saturday.
"We were more intense during JIVE," Juneau junior outside hitter Kelly Baxter said.
"We need to get more intense, otherwise we were about the same," Asper-Smith said. "We're hoping to get more people here for the Sitka games. We get so pumped up when there's a crowd."
"JIVE was definitely the best we've played this season," Zidek-Ledington said. "We were very consistent. There wasn't as much intensity against Ketchikan."
Neussl led Juneau with 11 kills, two ace serves and two solo blocks. Baxter recorded five kills and five aces, despite sitting on the bench much of the third game. Capacci had five kills, Asper-Smith added four kills, Krista Heard served four aces, Julie Heard had 11 digs and three aces, and Callan Janowiec made six digs.
Lindsey Bolling led Ketchikan with four kills and two blocks, while Larissa Otness added three kills and three blocks, Zeta Moss had three kills and 100-percent serving, Krystin Willburn added three kills and Cheryl Romero had two kills and a block.
"They played better tonight, and we gave some people some experience in different places," said Ketchikan assistant coach Gary Steinfort, whose daughter Kristen played for Juneau in the early 1990s. "We only had eight players so we were very thin on the bench. Anne Elliott is out sick, and she's our best hitter and passer. We were also missing Jonnae Ostrom, who's our best blocker."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.