The Crimson Bears volleyball team will be traveling to Anchorage for the second time in the past month, but this time there is much more at stake.
Juneau-Douglas will face Colony in the first round of the state tournament Thursday, the first matchup between the two this season.
Coach Sandi Wagner said the team is excited about the opportunity to play the top competition in the state.
"I tend to not be one of those coaches that's focused on who we're playing. I focus on getting my kids ready to play," she said. "We always have battled Colony tough. Every year we play them, it seems to be a battle back and forth. I'm sure it will be a battle this year."
She said the fact that the two teams have not played yet this year means neither team knows much about the other's strategy.
"I have no idea what to expect, just as I don't think they know what to expect from us," she said with a laugh.
Wagner said Friday's loss to Ketchikan made her players come together and refocus on the task at hand.
"I have to give my kids credit, they didn't let down," she said. "They showed what kind of character they had, on and off the court."
She said the team won the sportsmanship award at the Region V Tournament, something difficult to achieve after a tough loss like Friday's.
"I think what they learned, more than anything, is that they have to stay focused through the entire season," she said. "They admitted right up front their practices weren't really focused last week and that they needed to refocus. They did that last weekend."
Daffodil Alinson said the loss was an emotional team unifier.
"After the game we had a team meeting, and we just poured our hearts out," she said. "We started talking about how we needed to work harder for the seniors, so it became personal."
She said the team learned some important lessons heading into state.
"We need to work on getting our offense going from the beginning, because we struggled a lot with serve receive," Alinson said.
She said the team's previous experience against South Anchorage and Dimond gives them a good feeling before the upcoming departure for Anchorage.
"We're pretty confident because we know we're a pretty good team and that we can compete with them," she said. "But, we know we have to work our hardest."
As for what it's going to take for the Crimson Bears to return as state champion, she said it's going to have to be an all-out effort every game they play.
"We can't stop talking on the court; we have to keep our intensity up, and we did some of that in our championship game against Ketchikan," she said. "We noticed that when we talked a lot, we saw fear in their eyes. We need to work on talking so maybe we can scare them a bit up there."
Thursday, the Bears will have their chance.
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