ANCHORAGE - It was hard for the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team to be disappointed, even though the Crimson Bears lost their last two matches of the Class 4A state tournament.
The Crimson Bears lost 28-26, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21 to the Colony Knights in Saturday's third-fifth place match at West Anchorage High School, and they dropped a 25-23, 25-17, 25-17 decision to the defending state champion Service Cougars in Friday's semifinals.
"We played really well. It's not so disappointing that we lost when we played so well," Juneau sophomore Sarah Christianson said. "It was a good way to go out. I'm not disappointed."
"I think it was an exciting game," said Juneau senior Amber Johnson, who was named the player of the match for the Crimson Bears. "The coaches said it was the best they'd ever seen us play this season, and when your coaches are saying that it gives you a lot of confidence."
Junior middle blocker Lesley Kalbrener was the only Juneau player named to the all-tournament team. The Crimson Bears won the team academic award with a 3.70 team GPA.
Service won its second straight state title and 11th championship overall after beating the West Anchorage Eagles 25-13, 23-25, 25-11, 20-25, 15-13 in the tournament's only five-game match. West has won two titles since the 1971-72 season, but this was its best finish since winning it all in the spring of 1984.
Going into Saturday's third-fifth place match, the Crimson Bears and the Knights had been evenly matched over the past couple of seasons - but the teams hadn't played each other since Colony swept Juneau 28-26, 28-26, 28-26 in the semifinals of last year's state tournament.
Even though Juneau has a bigger block in the middle than Colony, both teams relied on their defense and passing for most of Saturday's match, which was highlighted by long rallies and some great digs.
"We all play really scrappy," Juneau junior Torie Powers said. "We're both picking up a lot of junk off the ground. The other teams play good defense, but we play with a lot of heart."
"We are evenly matched," Juneau junior Jillian Hahnlen said. "We are very happy with the way we played."
The Crimson Bears took a couple of small early leads in the first game, with the biggest lead at 20-14. But the Knights rallied to tie the score at 23-23, and finally won after Juneau held off two game points and Colony held off one. The 28-26 score had a couple of the players talking about the scores from last year's match.
"In my mind it was deja vu," Johnson said.
In the second game, Juneau started running more plays through the middle, setting up Hahnlen and Lesley Kalbrener for the kills. Juneau jumped out to leads of 8-1, 12-4 and 21-14, then held off a Colony rally to even the match.
Colony jumped out to leads of 8-1 and 17-6 in the third game, as Juneau struggled with its passing early in the game. In the fourth game, there were 11 ties with the last being 20-20.
"Part of me is disappointed we don't get a rematch," Juneau senior Bianca Carpeneti said. "There were times we didn't play as well as we could, but there were times we shined."
Johnson led Juneau with nine kills, two solo blocks and 26 digs, while Christianson added nine kills, 16 digs and four ace serves. Hahnlen had 14 kills and two solo blocks, with Kalbrener adding 13 kills, Hannah Barril adding 12 digs, Rochele Rodman eight digs and Alycia Cox two ace serves.
Rochelle Ray led Colony with 20 kills and 19 digs, while Kelcy Joynt had 16 kills and Amanda Aafedt added eight kills and 25 digs.
"I think we had confidence all along," said Joynt, who was the player of the match for Colony. "It was a disappointment not to be in the championship, but our goal was to place. They (the Crimson Bears) are a good team. They're big and we have the disadvantage of being small. Their middles are so tall."
In Friday's semifinals, the Crimson Bears did struggle with their passing at times, but Service also played its best match in several weeks. Even though they lost, the Crimson Bears did improve on their 25-8, 25-18 loss to the Cougars at the Dimond-Service Invitational last month.
"We did a lot better. We knew what they were like," Juneau senior Megan Treston said. "I think we got scared a little bit in the second game. They're a good team and kind of intimidating. But we played our game."
"We definitely improved against them," Juneau senior Carly Garrison said. "The last time we played them we had a lot of overpassing. We knew we were the underdogs coming in. I think in the (Anchorage) Daily News we weren't mentioned, so we wanted to win. We knew it was not going to be an easy night for us, but we were mentally prepared."
Hahnlen led Juneau with 11 kills and was named the team's player of the match, while Kalbrener added eight kills and six digs. Christianson added three kills, while Barril had eight digs, Alycia Cox had six digs and two aces, Johnson had six digs and an ace, Powers served two aces and Treston added five digs.
No stats were available for Service, which had Caitlin Grenier named player of the match.
Charles Bingham can be reached at email@example.com.
CLASS 4A STATE
Results from the Class 4A state volleyball tournament held Thursday through Saturday at West Anchorage High School.
Saturday's match scores
Championship match - Service def. West Anchorage, 25-13, 23-25, 25-11, 20-25, 15-13.
Third-fifth place match - Colony def. Juneau-Douglas, 28-26, 22-25, 25-15, 25-21.
Fourth-sixth place match - East Anchorage def. Kenai Central, 20-25, 25-18, 25-14, 25-23.
Friday's match scores
Semifinal matches - Service def. Juneau-Douglas, 25-23, 25-17, 25-17; West Anchorage def. Colony, 25-17, 25-18, 25-23.
Consolation matches - Kenai Central def. Palmer, 25-21, 25-13, 22-25, 27-25; East Anchorage def. West Valley, 25-17, 25-20, 25-13.
Thursday's match scores
First-round matches - Juneau-Douglas def. Kenai Central, 25-18, 25-19, 25-12; Service def. Palmer, 25-19, 22-25, 25-12, 25-16; West Anchorage def. West Valley, 21-25, 25-10, 25-17, 25-14; Colony def. East Anchorage, 25-16, 25-17, 25-17.
Team academic award - Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears, 3.70 team GPA.
Team sportsmanship award - Colony Knights.
All-tournament team - Maddy Thomas, East Anchorage; Jamie Peterson, Kenai Central; Caitlin Grenier, Service; Nicky Bantan, West Anchorage; Jennifer Oato, East Anchorage; Pasadeanna Aukistino, Service; Danielle Johnson, West Anchorage; Kelcy Joynt, Colony; Meghan Francis, Service; Lesley Kalbrener, Juneau-Douglas; Amanda Aafedt, Colony; Kathryn Bockmon, West Anchorage.
Southeast Good Sport team members (two selected by coaches for each team) - Bianca Carpeneti and Amber Johnson, Juneau-Douglas.