Toughness lifts JDHS to state tourney

Crimson Bears rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win Southeast Conference crown

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2006

For relief pitchers in the World Series or high school volleyball players in an intense tournament, one key attribute can go a long, long way - a short memory.

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Juneau-Douglas High School, which takes on Chugiak at 3:45 p.m. today in the quarterfinal round of the Alaska School Activities Association 3A/4A State Championships, learned the importance of forgetfulness last weekend in a dogfight with Ketchikan.

The Crimson Bears trailed the Kings two games to one in the Southeast Region title game before battling back to capture the championship.

"We looked at each other like it didn't happen," Juneau's Tara Hansen said. "That way we don't have to remember how bad we played in the second and third games. We just kept playing, and the fourth and last game were the best. Finally, everyone was like, 'This is fun. Let's have fun.'"

For Juneau-Douglas, the lesson learned about beating Ketchikan wasn't so much about falling behind as it was about getting back up.

That kind of perseverance is crucial for a successful volleyball team, in which momentum can swing back and forth like the white ball soaring over the net.

"I think what brought us all back was how we were all energized," JDHS setter Rachelle Albay said.

JDHS volleyball

State quarterfinals

Who: JDHS vs. Chugiak.

When: 3:45 p.m. today.

Where: West Anchorage High School.

Whats at stake? Todays winner faces either South Anchorage or Colony on Friday.

Saturday's battle also proved one of the most intense games of the season.

JDHS can expect the same level of intensity at the state tournament, where stakes are the highest.

"We made the game intense because our attitude went downhill in the second and third games," Hansen said. "At that point we needed to win. I just wanted to pick our team up, so there was a lot of screaming involved."

JDHS beat Chugiak, the Cook Inlet Conference's third-place team, on Sept. 29 at the West Spiketacular in a best-of-three games contest.

Today's winner gets either Colony or defending Class 4A state champion South Anchorage on Friday.

While most the majority of Crimson Bears haven't played at the state tournament before, the tourney's site is the place where JDHS enjoyed its highest success this season. Juneau's second-place performance at the West Spiketacular, where the Bears played almost all of the state tournament teams, is considered a high-water mark for the season.

"A lot of the team hasn't (played at state) but we have played at West and played all the teams before," Hansen said. "I'm not going up there cocky, but I'm confident."

Juneau-Douglas won't be the tallest team at West this weekend. The Crimson Bears, however, must combat that lack of height with defensive hustle and strong blocking.

A big dig can be as much a confidence boost as a spike while strong blocks can limit the area where opposing hitters can attack.

"Blocking gives us an advantage," JDHS senior Sarah Christianson said. "You get momentum when you get a block. Also, even if you don't get a block, it's impossible to cover the whole court so it takes part of it away."

While strategies, positioning and hustle are all crucial parts of volleyball, mental toughness is equally as important. How JDHS fights back from a rough patch will be as, if not more, important than proper positioning or powerful spikes.

If the Crimson Bears can duplicate the heart they showed last weekend in Wrangell, then they can hang with any team they face at West.

"We needed to know we could lose two games and come back and win it," Christianson said. "When we're up north, we could lose a game but hopefully we won't lose any matches. Losing a game is OK as long as we come back."

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at

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