Cats scratch past Bears

JDHS fights to bitter end in opening loss to Skyview at state

Posted: Friday, November 14, 2008

The scoreboard showed three sets to nil, but the Crimson Bears got their money's worth Thursday night.

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Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News

The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team fought their way out of big holes in the first two sets of their opening-round 2008 4A State Championships, twice pushing Skyview to their limit. Their old demon - inconsistency - eventually led to the sweep, though, 22-25, 22-25, 15-25.

"All three games were dogfights," head coach Sandi Wagner said. "We had some long, long rallies and did some things I never expected very, very well. Our consistency killed us, though, just like it has all season."

The first set reads like a win for the Crimson Bears, with nearly 90 percent of their serves staying in and a match-high 13 kills from their hitters. The seesaw match just sank at the wrong time, and momentum swung in Skyview's favor at the end.

That trend continued as JDHS actually trailed 17-7 at one point in the second set. A gutsy string of rallies helped the team claw back to a 22-22 tie with a 1-1 tie in their sights. Once again, though, the Panthers pried the final three points from their reluctant hands of the physically and mentally worn out Bears.

The previous disappointments brought a lack of focus in the third, as the Crimson Bears kept just 15 of their 25 serves inside the lines and did not even attempt a single block at the net.

"We've got to work on those little things. Those are killing us, too, right now," Wagner said.

Senior middle hitter Kristie Ely was a bright spot as she lived up to her billing as a returning State All-Tournament team member from last season and an All-Southeast Team member this year. She slammed at least six kills in each set, finishing with 21 on the match out of just 37 attempts.

"Kristie was hitting smart and finding the gaps against them, and Rachel (Peyton) had a few smart hits as well," head coach Sandi Wagner said. "They had a good day at the net, but their passing has been a lot better than it was."

Peyton, also a senior middle hitter, led the passing game for Juneau-Douglas. She kept all but one of her 27 attempts in play.

Slowing the momentum of Skyview's big hitters proved to be a problem, however, as JDHS managed just two blocks total in the match. Ely and Peyton each got up for one.

"This year we're just not a power-blocking team. We're short and everybody else is tall," Wagner said. "Skyview had a couple of outstanding outside hitters - I have to give them credit."

Newly-converted outside hitter Krista Barril played solid at the net and helped spur the team's runs with a series of nice digs. Setter Nia Maake also shined on defense as Juneau-Douglas did their best to stop Skyview's hitters from the floor.

"We told them that we're proud of the whole team," Wagner said. "We did do some things really well, but hopefully we can fight through those other things (today). Most importantly we played hard and had fun."

The Crimson Bears will face Kodiak today at 9 a.m. in the consolation bracket after the other "Bears" team dropped its opening match against Dimond in four sets. The loser will be eliminated, while the winner will play for fourth place on Saturday.

"They're tall. We'll just wait have to wait and see how we much since we haven't faced them yet," Wagner said. "It will be a good challenge for us."

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