When they're on the ropes, Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball players know how to respond.
The Crimson Bears rallied from an 0-2 deficit Saturday to beat Ketchikan and secure a return to the state tournament with a 23-25, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-7 victory in the Southeast Class 4A championship match in Craig.
It was the second time in three weeks the Crimson Bears found themselves down two games in a best three-of-five match. On Saturday against Kayhi, like two weekends ago against Sitka, Juneau battled back to win.
The Crimson Bears, now a perfect 18-0 in best three-of-five matches this season, earned a spot in Saturday's final by sweeping Kayhi 25-16, 25-23, 25-20 on Friday.
Once Juneau reached the region final - a rematch against the Kings, who beat Sitka later Friday to reach the championship match - the Crimson Bears realized it wouldn't be easy.
"Ketchikan came out and played very well," Juneau coach Sandi Wagner said of the opening two games. "They controlled the ball. We played very tentative. We played to not lose, instead of to win."
When junior Alycia Cox got injured in the third game and had to sit out part of the match, the Crimson Bears had to shuffle their lineup to fill the gap - and they started to rally.
"For some reason, that turned it," Wagner said. "We came out and won that game, the next, and took it to them in the last game."
"We pulled it off and came through," junior Hannah Barril said. "We showed how we can play."
Senior Amber Johnson led the Crimson Bears with 25 digs in Saturday's match, while junior Lesley Kalbrener had 24 kills and junior Jillian Hahnlen added 16 kills. Senior Carly Garrison came off the bench and finished a perfect 25-for-25 serving for Juneau.
Garrison said she hadn't performed as well as she had hoped as Juneau's representative in the tourney's serving competition - so she focused on doing well in Saturday's match.
"I was trying to redeem myself," she said.
Wagner said Barril, playing in the back row, helped keep her teammates spirits up when things were looking bleak Saturday.
She had a great attitude and played her heart out, Wagner said.
In Fridays match against Ketchikan, Hahnlen had 13 kills and Kalbrener added nine for Juneau. Junior Sara Manning had 14 digs and Johnson contributed 11, and junior Rochele Rodman was 19-for-19 serving with three aces.
The Crimson Bears will return to the state tournament Thursday through Saturday at West Anchorage High School.
In Southeast Class 3A competition, Craig went undefeated in the tourney and beat Petersburg three games to one in Saturdays championship match. Both teams earned berths at the state tournament. The Panthers handed the Vikings their two tourney defeats.
Tournament awards will run later this week in the Empire.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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