ANCHORAGE -- After losing to Skyview in Friday's semifinals of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament, having a letdown in Saturday's third-fifth place match was a worry for the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears.
But there was no letdown Saturday as the Crimson Bears blanked the Mustangs in the first game and went on to claim third place with a 15-0, 15-8, 8-15, 15-9 victory at West Anchorage High School.
"It was a big team effort today," Juneau junior middle blocker Amy Neussl said. "We finished it out."
"We were not worried at all," Juneau senior outside hitter-defensive specialist Sarah Felix said about a possible Juneau letdown.
Wasilla beat Skyview 9-15, 15-12, 15-3, 15-9 in Saturday's championship match, while Service needed five games to beat crosstown rival Dimond 12-15, 15-5, 15-12, 8-15, 15-10.
On Friday, Juneau was trying to reach the championship match for the second time in three years, and the Crimson Bears felt good about their chances with the Panthers because it was the seventh time the teams had seen each other over the past two years. Earlier this season Juneau beat Skyview in five games at Skyview, but the Panthers did win a two-game mini-match against Juneau at the Service-Dimond Tournament.
Juneau won the opening game , but Skyview rallied to earn its first trip to the state finals in school history with a 10-15, 15-12, 15-6, 15-2 victory.
The first three games were highlighted by long rallies, but Juneau's passing started to break down in the fourth game and the Crimson Bears couldn't muster much of an offense. At one point, because of substitutions, Juneau's players seemed to lose track of where they were supposed to be on the court, and that allowed Skyview to score three points late in the game to stifle any chance of a late Juneau rally.
"It was our defense," said Skyview outside hitter Jenny Carpenter, who led the Panthers with 19 kills and 15 digs. "We made sure to have our coverage, so they'd be the ones to make mistakes. They had some good blocks in the middle, and we tried to move things around on them. This is wonderful. We knew they'd be tough because they beat us the first time we played them."
Besides Carpenter's stats, Skyview also picked up 10 kills from Laura Tarbox, nine kills and 14 digs from Christine Hayes and 13 digs from Jessica Truesdell.
Juneau was led by Anna Capacci with 10 kills and 15 digs. Kelly Baxter added 10 kills and 14 digs, while Amy Neussl chipped in eight kills, three solo blocks, two block assists, two aces and 14 digs. Brenna Asper-Smith had five kills and a solo block, while Callan Janowiec added 19 digs and Julie Heard had 13 digs and four kills.
After the Crimson Bears struggled near the end of the Friday's match, there were some worries about how they'd do on Saturday. The Juneau players didn't expect to have a letdown, but they were surprised by the way they opened against Chugiak.
"That wasn't what we expected," Janowiec said of Juneau's winning the first game with what's known in volleyball as a "Bagel," a 15-0 shutout.
"We feel very good," Baxter said. "We feel like we played better today than yesterday."
Chugiak took leads of 2-0 and 4-3 early in the second game, but Juneau rallied to take an 8-4 lead and was never threatened again. In the third game, Juneau led 8-5, but Chugiak rallied behind the attack of Shaleen Seward who had five kills as the Mustangs went on a 7-0 run to close out the game.
The fourth game was close as the teams were tied at 5-5. Juneau eased ahead with a three-point run for a 10-6 lead, and that was all the Crimson Bears needed to close out the match.
"We had inconsistent passing, and we couldn't run our offense," Chugiak coach Sabrina Bingham said. "It's hard to get self-motivated after losing in the semifinals, but we're still fighting for third and that's nothing to hang your head about. We've got a good fighting spirit and I'm proud of the way we were able to pick it up at the end."
Neussl led Juneau with 16 kills, 12 digs, two solo blocks and two aces, while Capacci added 14 kills and seven digs. Baxter had 14 kills, Asper-Smith added 11 kills, Janowiec made nine digs, Julie Heard had 10 digs and Felix added seven digs and two aces.
Seward led Chugiak with 15 kills, while Sara Scherlieble had 11 kills and 12 digs and Ashley Adams served two aces and made two solo blocks.
With the third-place finish, the Crimson Bears are looking forward to next year. While Juneau's roster was dominated by seniors, the Crimson Bears started three juniors and a sophomore this season. Nearly all of Juneau's players went to state last year, so they're pretty much over the jitters state tournament rookies experience.
"Last year was experience for this, and this year will be experience for next year," Neussl said. "We're hoping to keep building on that."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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