ANCHORAGE - Ice bags and ibuprofen were in demand for the Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team Saturday after the Crimson Bears lost in five games to the taller Dimond Lynx in the third-fifth place game of the Class 4A state volleyball tournament.
Juneau's sacrifice-your-body defense helped the Crimson Bears counter a Dimond roster that sported five 6-footers and seven players at least 5-10. But in the end, the Lynx were able to pull out a 19-25, 25-20, 25-17, 13-25, 15-5 victory at West Anchorage High School. In Friday's semifinals, Juneau was swept by the Colony Knights, 28-26, 28-26, 28-26, to just miss a chance to defend its 2002 state championship.
"You couldn't ask for more," senior outside hitter Julie Heard - Juneau's only member of the all-tournament team - said as she held an icepack on a pair of bruises that developed under her knee pads. "We knew Dimond would be tough. They (Heard's Crimson Bear teammates) played with a lot of heart."
"They didn't bulldoze us," Juneau senior outside hitter Karla Dunivin added. "We were definitely very evenly matched with everybody. Some (games) we took and some we didn't. We did phenomenal. Even though we had so many new players, we brought what we could to make our goal of top four at state."
The Service Cougars defeated Colony 25-12, 25-16, 21-25, 25-19 in the championship match on Saturday night, sending longtime coach Virgil Hooe into retirement with his ninth state title at Service and 10th overall - he won one at West Anchorage - in 25 years of high school coaching. The Alaska School Activities Association also nominated Hooe for the National Federation of High School Associations' Hall of Fame.
Dimond sported a taller roster than many college teams, and the Lynx had as many 6-footers as the other Class 4A teams at the state tournament combined (Service with three, Colony one and Juneau one). Sophomore middle blocker Lesley Kalbrener was Juneau's only 6-footer at state, since sophomore middle blocker Jillian Hahnlen was ill and didn't travel to Anchorage. That left defense and passing as Juneau's main weapons.
"They were big girls," Kalbrener said of defense. "The key to our game was defense. We did well, sometimes."
"It was a little frustrating, it was nerve-wracking," Dimond senior middle hitter Raven Nolan said of Juneau's ability to keep picking balls off the floor and putting them back in play. "They had good defense. It was a good match. In the fifth game, we decided we wanted this. I was happy to come out on top."
Juneau and Dimond were two of the youngest teams in the tournament - both have three seniors and a roster full of sophomores - which could mean the two squads will see a lot of each other over the next couple of years. Dimond didn't make the state tournament last year, while Juneau only had two players - Heard and Dunivin - on the varsity from its state title team.
"Our goal was to be in the top four, and I truly believe we were in the top four at state," Juneau sophomore setter Torie Powers said. "We played awesome, considering we were all on the C team last year. This was very good for all of us. We're all coming back. It'll be fun. We've got a great future."
"We'll definitely meet 'em again," Kalbrener said. "We've got so much potential. This loss is not a big thing. We came together so much this year. We all got a lot of exposure."
In Saturday's match, Juneau's experienced seniors dominated the early action as the Crimson Bears took leads of 14-6 and 15-7 before holding off a late Dimond rally in the first game. The Lynx led early in the second game, but it was close and Juneau rallied to take a 14-13 and 15-14 lead. Dimond scored the next two points and held the Crimson Bears off to even the match.
The Crimson Bears suffered from passing breakdowns and serve-receive problems in the third game, falling behind 6-0 and 15-7 as they never really got into the game. But in the fourth game, Juneau regained form as Heard, Dunivin and Kalbrener led the Crimson Bears to a relatively easy victory. That forced a fifth game that was close - Dimond led 5-4 - until Juneau's passing problems returned and the Lynx went on a 10-1 run to end the match.
Heard led Juneau with 20 kills, two solo blocks, four service aces and 22 digs. Dunivin added 18 kills, three aces and 13 digs, while Kalbrener had nine kills and four solo blocks and 5-1 sophomore setter Hannah Barril made 12 digs.
No stats were available for Dimond, but 5-5 senior outside hitter Cristal Negron earned player-of-the-match honors for the Lynx. Nolan, one of the 6-footers, dominated the middle for Dimond, with help from 6-foot junior middle Andrea Stigall and 6-foot sophomore twins Shaina and Savannah Afoa on the outside.
In Friday's match, where the Crimson Bears had to contend with just one 6-footer - 6-1 middle blocker Kristina Klapperich - defense was still a major factor as both teams kept lengthy rallies going with diving digs that sometimes left three players sliding across the floor after loose balls. The two teams faced each other in the championship of the Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza, which Colony won in five games.
Friday's first game saw only two leads as large as four points, and both teams held game point at least once. Juneau's passing woes appeared early in the second game as Colony took two 10-point leads (14-4 and 15-5), but the Crimson Bears corrected them and rallied to take a 22-21 lead before the Knights closed out the game. The third game was like the first game, with just one four-point lead. Juneau had two game points, but couldn't close it out to force a fourth game.
"That was a very good comeback," Juneau senior middle blocker Heather Dillon said of the second-game rally. "The last time we played them, in the fourth game Torie got hurt so we didn't get around as much."
Even though the rematch went three games, the Colony players felt Juneau was a much-improved team since their last meeting.
"They gave us a game," Colony outside hitter Kelcy Joynt said. "They didn't stop fighting. It was so exciting."
"It really helped us," Colony outside hitter Rochelle Ray said about their JIVE meeting. "That way you can see what their tendencies are. They improved a lot. No. 10 (Heard) hits so hard. Their defense was really good. It was close."
Ray earned player-of-the-match honors for Colony with four aces, six kills and 16 digs. Klapperich had 13 kills and three solo blocks, while Joynt added nine kills and Karin Dau made 20 assists.
Dunivin earned player-of-the-match honors for Juneau with 16 kills, 14 digs and two aces. Heard added 20 kills and 16 digs, while Kalbrener had three kills and three solo blocks; Dillon added three kills and five block assists; junior outside hitter Amber Johnson served three aces and made 10 digs; and Barril added 10 digs.
"It's amazing what we've accomplished this year," Dunivin said. "We've definitely improved a lot."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CLASS 4A STATE TOURNAMENT
Results from the Class 4A state volleyball tournament, held Thursday through Saturday at West Anchorage High School.
Championship match - Service def. Colony, 25-12, 25-16, 21-25, 25-19.
Third-fifth place match - Dimond def. Juneau-Douglas, 19-25, 25-20, 25-17, 13-25, 15-5.
Fourth-sixth place match - Bartlett def. Wasilla, 20-25, 25-13, 25-16, 25-13.
Championship semifinals - Colony def. Juneau-Douglas, 28-26, 28-26, 28-26; Service def. Dimond, 25-18, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22.
Consolation semifinals (losers eliminated) - Bartlett def. West Valley, 25-22, 24-26, 25-18, 25-13; Wasilla def. Palmer, 28-30, 25-19, 14-25, 25-19, 15-9.
First-round matches - Juneau-Douglas def. Bartlett, 25-19, 25-23, 17-25, 17-25, 15-7; Colony def. West Valley, 25-23, 25-21, 21-25, 20-25, 15-13; Service def. Wasilla, 25-21, 25-12, 25-14; Dimond def. Palmer, 25-23, 25-17, 25-18.
Team academic award - West Valley Wolfpack, 3.68 team GPA.
Team sportsmanship award - Colony Knights.
All-tournament team - Nikki Moss, Bartlett; Jessie Macknicki, Palmer; Heather Lyons, Service; Andrea Stigall, Dimond; Laurel Creel, Wasilla; Rochelle Ray, Colony; Julie Heard, Juneau-Douglas; Caitlin Grenier, Service; Amanda Aafedt, Colony; Jessica Starr, West Valley; Stephanie Wayt, Service; Kristina Klapperich, Colony.
Southeast good-sport team members - Karla Dunivin and Amber Johnson, Juneau-Douglas.