Most of the girls on the Juneau-Douglas volleyball team have seen senior nights come and go over the last three years. But Saturday, it's their turn.
"It's going to be a really emotional night for us - our last game on our home court. It'll be good, though, especially because we're playing Thunder Mountain," Crimson Bears senior Vika Toetuu said, referring to the team's happiness in sharing the festivities with the crosstown Falcons.
The Crimson Bears' varsity squad includes 12 of 13 players graduating this season - 20 counting the JV and C Teams - and its experience has shown through all season as Juneau-Douglas has been cruising along on its way to the regional tournament next weekend, going undefeated in match play.
But the Crimson Bears won't be the only ones celebrating this weekend. After graduating only one senior from last year's inaugural team, the Falcons will recognize four seniors in Friday night's 8 p.m. match at Thunder Mountain High School. One of those seniors, Janie White, said the emotions are mixed.
"I'm super sad but excited as well," she said. "It's going to be emotional, but we have a good team and it's going to be fun."
White said the Falcons knows what kind of task lies ahead as the girls face the dominant Crimson Bears, but she also said Thunder Mountain has made a lot of progress in its second season of competition.
"We've learned how to focus more. Practice has been more focused and we don't goof off as much," she said. "Our teammates have come together much more this year and we're starting to trust each other more this season.
"It's exciting to see how much we've changed."
And though the competition will be stiff this weekend, teammate and fellow senior Madi Wells expressed her confidence.
"I think we're ready. We've been working extra hard and practicing the things that we need to do," she said. "I think we've improved a lot since the last time we played them, but it's going to be a tough match."
As for playing in front of the home crowd for the final time this year, Wells said it should be interesting.
"It's going to be kind of nerve-wracking, but it's probably not going to be much different than any other game," she said. "Well, I guess it will be more emotional. We'll find out."
But it's Juneau-Douglas that is rolling into the postseason. The Bears are confident as the season winds down, which is understandable given the dominance they've shown over the Southeast Conference. And while this team is focused on the ultimate goal of winning, JDHS senior Megan Mauseth said it will take the time to enjoy senior night at Juneau-Douglas High School on Saturday.
"I've grown up with most of these girls, so saying goodbye after our last game here is going to be a big thing," she said. "Personally, I'm really upset about it since it's the last game on our home court. But it means a lot and it's definitely mixed emotions.
"It's going to be a big deal."
But Chelsea Flint said despite the emotional atmosphere, the Bears will go about with a businesslike approach.
"We're going to go at it this weekend just as hard as we always do," she said. "We're all going to be upset because it's our last time playing together in this gym. Still, I think we can keep up the competitive edge.
"I haven't decided if we're going to cry or not. We're emotional because we're a really tight-knit group," she continued. "Most of us have been playing together for four years, so it's going to be tough for us to all say goodbye to this hometown experience."
The Falcons host today's senior night at 8 p.m. at Thunder Mountain High School, and the Crimson Bears will celebrate their seniors Saturday at 7 p.m. at Juneau-Douglas High School.
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