Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Quick strike: Juneau-Douglas High School hitter Lesley Kalbrener hits a set provided by Rochele Rodman during practice on Tuesday.
Volleyball is more than the standard bump, set and spike.
The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team captured the Southeast Conference title and looms as a state championship threat due to its ability to go beyond the norm.
Thier quick offense is one of the multiple attack plans in the Crimson Bears' arsenal that has proved especially effective. Quicks gives Juneau-Douglas the opportunity to put opposing teams on the run by speeding up the game's tempo and hitting from a variety of different spots on the floor.
"The idea behind a quick offense is that you set the ball lower, set it faster so that the defense does not have time to set up," JDHS coach Sandi Wagner said. "So not only do we work on the quicks, but we work on setting the ball in different positions, rather than just setting outside."
Quicks start before JDHS has the ball. The hitters up front tell the setters where they would like the ball before it comes over the net.
Who: JDHS vs. Kenai.
When: 2 p.m. Thursday.
Where: West Anchorage High School.
What's at stake: Thursday's winner takes on either Palmer or South Anchorage in semifinals.
Once the ball enters Juneau's end, the Crimson Bears' back row players must receive and pass the ball to the setter.
"The idea behind it is to do it whenever you can, but you have to have a perfect pass," Wagner said. "It's easier to set a ball high and outside off a bad pass than run a quick offense off a bad pass. The objective is you have to have a good pass to get it there."
Alycia Cox, Marita Rodriguez, Sarah Christianson and Hannah Barril are normally the ones responsible for the initial pass. They have to make sure they can get the ball to the setter in a controlled manner.
"We try as hard as we can to get it to happen every time," Rodriguez said. "When it's not a perfect pass, the team works to make it work. The setter moves and sometimes it does work for a quick."
After the back row delivers the pass, the setter then must feed the hitter.
Once the ball gets to the setter, the opposing defense doesn't know where the ball is going. Juneau-Douglas' setters - Rochele Rodman and Torie Powers - could move the ball anywhere on the court, which places pressure on the opposing defense to predict when and where the spike may be coming.
"I am responsible for getting the ball up so the hitter hits the ball," Rodman said. "They tell me what they want to hit, and I have to set it."
The hitter's job is then to strike the ball to open space. The hitter could also call an audible and change the set's placement based on her read of the defense.
"A lot of it is audibles and you're calling it a split-second before the set," JDHS middle hitter Lesley Kalbrener said. "So the setter has to be right on."
Once the ball is up, the hitter then quickly smacks the ball to open space.
When Juneau-Douglas executes this quick offense perfectly, it catches the defense scrambling and the hitters find the open space for a point.
"Our comfortable set is a two-set, which is about two feet off the net," Kalbrener said. "That's our comfort zone. That's what we've been running since we've been learning to hit. So the quicks are in there to mix it up and throw off the defense on the other side."
All of this is just one little wrinkle in the Crimson Bears' diverse offense.
This particular wrinkle, though, could be especially important this week as the Crimson Bears compete in the Class 4A Volleyball State Championships at West Anchorage High School.
JDHS opens play 2 p.m. Thursday against Kenai. The winner of Thursday's game faces either South Anchorage or Palmer. The Wolverines are among the state's top teams and defeated the Crimson Bears in the Service/Dimond Tournament finals on Oct. 15.
If Juneau-Douglas can execute its quicks and keep South's tall frontline and fast defenders from getting comfortable defensively, the Crimson Bears might be able to make a deep run in the tournament.
"Hopefully," Cox said, "we can use our quicks to catch them off guard."
Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com
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