The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team was undefeated in Region V-Class 4A play for the regular season, but that perfect record won't mean anything when the Crimson Bears open play in the region tournament this weekend in Wrangell.
The Crimson Bears (12-4 overall, 8-0 in region) earned a first-round bye with their perfect record, so they await the winner of today's 2:15 p.m. match between Ketchikan (12-7, 4-4) and Sitka (0-8, 0-8). Juneau plays the Ketchikan-Sitka winner at 3:45 p.m. on Friday for a spot in Saturday's 2 p.m. championship match. The losers of the first two matches play at 7 p.m. Friday for a second chance at Saturday's championship match. If needed, a 6 p.m. match Saturday will decide the winner of the double-elimination tournament.
"We're feeling confident," Juneau senior defensive specialist/outside hitter Sarah Bixby said.
"We're hoping to go out with a bang," Juneau senior outside hitter Krista Heard said. "This is the big test."
Only the region tournament champion earns a berth at the Class 4A state tournament Nov. 8-10 at West Anchorage High School. Juneau hasn't missed a trip to the state tournament in at least 13 years, but the Crimson Bears don't feel the trip to state is a birthright.
"We're very focused on the region (tournament) because that's the door to state," Juneau co-coach Dale Bontrager said. "It's do-or-die time, as Sandi (Wagner, a Juneau co-coach) said. This is our first step and we've got to be focused."
The region tournament used to be in a single-elimination format until last year, which meant all it took was one upset loss to spoil a perfect regular season by keeping the team from going to state. The tournament went to a double-elimination format last year, which Juneau senior middle blocker Brenna Asper-Smith called "a nice safety net."
"We hope it doesn't make us complacent," Juneau senior outside hitter Anna Capacci said.
"It can be a two-edged sword," Bontrager said of the double-elimination format. "It can work for us if we lose, but it means we have to play more matches if we win. We like having to prove it. It's a great idea that was overdue. We want to go two-and-out the good way."
The Crimson Bears hosted both of their region opponents last week, so Ketchikan's and Sitka's strengths and weaknesses are fresh in the minds of the Juneau players. Ketchikan was missing two of its top players, but Juneau swept the Kings with little trouble. Sitka was at full strength and was the only team to take a game off Juneau last week.
"We were trying new things," Juneau senior middle blocker/outside hitter Devra Roberts said.
"I think this weekend we'll be ready," Juneau senior outside hitter Morgan Zidek-Ledington added.
The Region V-Class 3A tournament also takes place in Wrangell this weekend. The region hosted four tournaments this season with round-robin pool-play leading to placement matches. Petersburg took second after the round-robin part of all four tourneys, but ended up winning the championship of all four events. Craig won the round-robin portion of three of the tourneys, while Wrangell won the other one.
Haines and Mount Edgecumbe open the tournament at 12:30 p.m. today, while Petersburg, Craig and Wrangell all have first-round byes. Wrangell and Craig play at 4 p.m. today and Petersburg plays the Haines-Mount Edgecumbe winner at 5:45 p.m. today. Losers' bracket action starts at 12:15 p.m. on Friday.
The double-elimination tournament's championship match is 4 p.m. on Saturday, with an if-necessary match scheduled for 8 p.m. The top two teams in the Region V-Class 3A tournament earn berths at the state Class 3A tournament Nov. 8-10 at West Anchorage High School.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.