All season long the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team talked about the need to stay positive during tough matches or down points.
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The Crimson Bears' faith in themselves and one another was pushed to the limit Saturday in Petersburg at the Class 4A Southeast Conference Tournament. At the end of the tourney, though, JDHS emerged as region champions.
"That was probably the most emotional experience I ever had," JDHS senior Cortney Wagner said. "It was insane. That's the only word to describe it."
The Crimson Bears rallied from a fifth-game deficit to beat Ketchikan 25-13, 25-17, 18-25, 18-25, 15-13 in the final.
JDHS had a chance to close out the title earlier on Saturday, but the Kings won 11-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-23, 15-7 to force a championship game later that night.
"That was some of the best volleyball I've seen in Southeast, or even Alaska," Wagner said. "It was awesome to watch, because the hits were harder and harder and the adrenaline kept rushing. It was insane."
On Friday, JDHS beat Ketchikan 25-20, 25-13, 19-25, 22-25, 15-11 in the opening round of the double-elimination tournament.
"We actually stayed up pretty well in the tournament," Juneau's Carly Lehnhart said. "In this tournament, even though we went to the fifth game with every match with them, we were surprisingly up. We never got out of a game because of our attitude."
During the regular season, Juneau-Douglas defeated Ketchikan three of four times.
On Saturday, however, the Kings gave the Crimson Bears all they could handle.
In the championship final, Ketchikan led JDHS 12-9 in the final game as the Bears' coaching staff called time out.
"We were telling each other to have fun and have a positive attitude about it," Pratt said of the time out. "We wanted it."
Juneau-Douglas won six of the match's last seven points to emerge victorious.
"Immediately after, I don't think our team could sit still," Wagner said. "We were shaking. We gave congratulations to Ketchikan."
Saturday's riveting action started earlier in the day as Ketchikan rallied to overtake the Bears.
After the loss, JDHS used the time in between matches to figure out what went wrong and how to come back stronger.
"We discussed that this is what we needed to do, this is what Ketchikan isn't doing," Wagner said. "We talked about spots that were open on offense and things to cover on defense."
"We were able to gather ourselves," Pratt said. "At first we were kind of upset but we knew we had to get it because we wanted it bad. So we came out fired up and ready to take that."
Juneau-Douglas will represent the Southeast Conference at the Alaska School Activities Association State Volleyball Championships starting Thursday at West Anchorage High School.
The Crimson Bears will find out their first-round opponent on Monday.
No matter who they play on Monday, however, JDHS can rest assured in the knowledge that it can fight back from any situation.
Juneau-Douglas also knows it had to give everything it could to beat a well-respected Ketchikan team.
"(Ketchikan) didn't get down at all," Lehnhart said. "Even though we killed them in the first two games (of the final), they came out the third game and put up a fight. They played extremely well."
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.