Winning a spot on the all-conference volleyball team last weekend was a little out of character for Juneau-Douglas High School junior Rochele Rodman.
Individual honors, being called up in front of the rest of the Southeast tournament teams - that's not Rodman's style. All season long she's been helping the Crimson Bears in a more subdued style, making crucial plays that aren't always recorded in the stats or recognized by spectators.
"Rochele is one of our most consistent all-around players," Juneau coach Sandi Wagner said. "She gets kills, she can put up a block, she sets and she can play defense.
"The reason she made all-conference is because of her all-around play and because she's one of the best setters in the region."
Rodman and the Southeast champion Crimson Bears open Class 4A state tournament play at 2 p.m. today against the Kenai Kardinals at West Anchorage High School. Juneau is 18-0 this season in best three-of-five matches.
Southeast teams' opening matchups at the state tournament in Anchorage:
Juneau-Douglas vs. Kenai, 2 p.m.
Craig vs. Seward, 3:45 p.m.
Petersburg vs. Valdez, 5:30 p.m.
Other teams at this year's state tournament:
CLASS 4A: Service, Palmer, West Valley, West Anchorage, Colony, East Anchorage.
CLASS 3A: Nikiski, Cordova, Grace Christian, Monroe Catholic.
Defending state champions:
CLASS 4A: Service.
CLASS 3A: Valdez.
In Class 3A state competition at West, Southeast champ Craig will face Seward at 3:45 p.m. today, and Southeast runner-up Petersburg faces a tough first-round test against three-time defending state champion Valdez at 5:30 p.m.
When the Crimson Bears take the court against Kenai today, odds are that Rodman will be out on the floor. She is tied with fellow junior Hannah Barril for most games played, at 115 of 116 this season.
Rodman is Juneau's most consistent server. According to stats kept by Juneau coach Pat Gorman, Rodman has placed 415 of her 424 serve attempts inbounds, for a 97.9-percent success rate - the best mark among the team's usual servers.
Rodman also has contributed a fair share of digs and kills, but her specialty is setting - something that doesn't appear in the stats. Rodman excels at placing and timing the ball perfectly so that Juneau's spike specialists, including Lesley Kalbrener and Jillian Hahnlen, can leap and make the kill.
"It takes a good set to make a great kill," said Amber Johnson, one of four seniors on this year's Juneau team.
Wagner said Rodman, who also plays soccer for Juneau, often takes the role of "quarterback" on the court, encouraging and guiding her teammates. That's been an area of improvement for Rodman this season.
"She had the skills before, but was a little timid about taking charge," Wagner said.
Rodman's efforts were honored with the all-conference nod - but her focus remained on the good of her team.
"I wasn't really expecting it," Rodman said of the honor. "I don't really know when I'm playing well. I just try to focus on the team doing well."
Juneau is familiar with their first-round opponent. The Crimson Bears beat the Kardinals in a pair of matches in Kodiak in early September. Juneau won in four games on back-to-back nights.
But that was early in the season, and the Crimson Bears expect to see an improved Kenai squad at state. In the Northern Lights Conference tournament last week, the Kardinals gave eventual champion Colony a tough test early before falling to the Knights. Kenai qualified for state with a third-place finish.
"They have some very good players," Wagner said. "The reason we were able to beat them before was because they were not consistent. I'm sure they've improved on that. ... They're going to be tough."
"It's been a whole season," Rodman said of the time between meetings. "We don't know what to expect. I guess we'll find out."
The other Class 4A state teams are defending champion Service, Palmer, West Valley, West Anchorage, Colony and East Anchorage.
In Class 3A competition, Craig went undefeated at the Southeast tournament and drew the Seward Seahawks in the first round at state. Craig is led by All-Southeast players Jill May and Brianne Goheen.
Southeast Class 3A runner-up Petersburg has a daunting first-round matchup against the Valdez Buccaneers, who are aiming for their fourth straight state title.
The Vikings won the All-Comers Tournament in Juneau two weeks ago and placed four players on the All-Southeast team - Amanda Versteeg, Rikki Versteeg, Jill McIntosh and Brenna McMahon.
"We've been playing well as a team this year," Petersburg coach Bev Siercks said. "We've been moving and covering on the court better than we have in the past."
Other Class 3A teams at the state tournament are Nikiski, Cordova, Grace Christian and Monroe Catholic, whose bus broke down and burned - with all the team's bags inside - Sunday on the way home to Fairbanks from the conference tourney in Valdez. No one was injured.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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