The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team can breathe easier this weekend, knowing that one bad match in the Region V-Class 4A tournament won't spoil a season where the Crimson Bears ran away with the regular-season title.
The Crimson Bears headed to Craig this morning for the start of the Region V tournament, and this year the Class 4A portion of the tournament features a double-elimination bracket for the first time. In past years, Juneau entered the tournament knowing one bad match could keep the Crimson Bears from the region's lone berth in the Class 4A state tournament, even in years where Juneau didn't lose a match until the region tournament.
"Double-elimination eases the pressure," Juneau senior Sharon Villanueva said.
Still, the double-elimination bracket can have its own problems. Instead of earning a bye right into the championship match for its regular-season title, Juneau now has to play at least two matches, and as many as four matches if the Crimson Bears lose their opener, in the double-elimination format.
"It's kind of scary. It's puts the pressure on," Juneau senior Angie Mill said. "Now there's a possibility of three or four matches."
"It's a little of both," Juneau assistant coach Dale Bontrager said of the double-elimination format. "If we win the first one, we'll wish it was over. But if we don't win we'll be glad to have another chance."
The Region V-Class 4A tournament opens today with third-seeded Sitka (1-7 in Region V) playing second-seeded Ketchikan (4-4 in region) at 2:15 p.m. for the right to play top-seeded Juneau (12-6 overall, 7-1 region) at 3:45 p.m. on Friday. The winner of the Juneau match will play for at 2 p.m. Saturday for the championship against the winner of a 7 p.m. Friday match featuring the loser of today's Sitka-Ketchikan match and the loser of Friday's Juneau match. An if-necessary match is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday.
"Sitka and Ketchikan have both gotten better," Juneau senior Janina Pelayo said. "But we're determined not to lose."
"Ketchikan is our main competitor and we'll probably see them in the finals," Mill said. "We lost to Ketchikan earlier this season in Ketchikan, but that was just a bad match. It was when we were up in Anchorage and we had to play them, that was the wake-up call. That was a close game."
Villanueva said Juneau should be favored, but Ketchikan and Sitka can still have their moments.
"Ketchikan and Sitka have a tendency to really step up and they have the capability to pull something out of their hats," Villanueva said. "We just have to play our game, no matter the skill level of our opponents."
The Region V-3A tournament will also be in Craig this weekend. Fifth-seeded Haines (3-5 in region) plays defending champion and fourth-seeded Wrangell (4-10) at 12:30 p.m. today. Third-seeded Mount Edgecumbe (4-10) plays second-seeded Petersburg (7-7) at 4 p.m. today, and top-seeded Craig (14-0) plays the Haines-Wrangell winner at 5:45 p.m. today. The double-elimination tournament will have its championship match at 4 p.m. Saturday, with an if-necessary match at 8 p.m.
The winner of the Region V-Class 4A tournament earns a spot in the Class 4A state tournament Nov. 9-11 in Anchorage, and the top-two Region V-3A teams earn berths to the Class 3A state tournament the same weekend.