Thunder Mountain High School players and spectators celebrate as the Falcons score the winning point to prevail in a five-set series over Ketchikan High School on Saturday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School players and spectators celebrate as the Falcons score the winning point to prevail in a five-set series over Ketchikan High School on Saturday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

A drama-filled weekend as Juneau’s volleyball teams continue contrasting seasons

TMHS prevails in toughest game yet to stay undefeated; JDHS puts up fight seeking first win.

Thunder Mountain High School’s perfect streak of sets this season came to an end in the Falcon’s most dramatic win of the year, while Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé also provided heightened drama trying to end its winless streak as the volleyball teams for both schools hosted out-of-town visitors this weekend.

The Falcons soared to 5-0, winning all of their games in three-set sweeps, entering Saturday night’s game against Ketchikan High School. But TMHS lost the first set and found itself down 2-1 in sets before rallying the win the final two and the game — with a series of remarkable saves and scores during the final few points allowing the Falcons to prevail in the close finale.

Thunder Mountain High School’s Ashley Gates hits the ball past a Ketchikan High School player during the teams’ five-set game Saturday night at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School’s Ashley Gates hits the ball past a Ketchikan High School player during the teams’ five-set game Saturday night at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“I think we just started out with too much nerves and we weren’t talking,” said Jayden Rosenbruch, a senior playing her second season on the varsity team. “We didn’t have enough energy and we were inside of our heads. And we were getting down on ourselves. But after we were talking as a team and we were figuring out what we’re doing, and we had to push it and we had to win at the net.”

“Our headspace is we really just started helping each other out and picking each other up. Our serves got better (and) I think overall we were just working better as a team.”

TMHS has a much easier time against North Pole High School on Friday night, prevailing in straight sets by scores of 25-16, 25-18 and 25-6.

Gwen Nizich (6), a sophomore for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, looks to return a hit against North Pole High School during Saturday night’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Gwen Nizich (6), a sophomore for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, looks to return a hit against North Pole High School during Saturday night’s game at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The JDHS Crimson Bears, meanwhile, showed more fight by taking its first game of the season beyond three sets on Friday night against Ketchikan, before losing in four sets that were all decided by margins of five to eight points. JDHS lost in straight sets on Saturday night to North Pole, but took the visiting team to an extended 28-26 first set before being defeated 25-16 and 25-15 in the subsequent sets.

“We had moments of brightness and things to work upon,” JDHS coach Jody Levernier said after Saturday’s game.

Chloe Casperson (7), a senior for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, sets up a play for teammates Gwen Nizich (6) and Kiah Yadao (5) in their game against North Pole High School on Saturday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Chloe Casperson (7), a senior for Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, sets up a play for teammates Gwen Nizich (6) and Kiah Yadao (5) in their game against North Pole High School on Saturday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The two local schools are scheduled to battle each other at 7:30 p.m. Friday at JDHS and 5:30 p.m. Saturday at TMHS. The Falcons won both games in a similar two-game series to open the season.

The weekend’s highlight five-set game putting TMHS against Ketchikan was a rematch of two games in Ketchikan the previous week, with the Falcons sweeping both in mostly close-scoring sets.

But Ketchikan came out strong early on the Falcons home court, taking a sizeable early lead. TMHS rallied to narrow the margin before losing its first set of the season 25-17. The Falcons reasserted themselves with an early lead in the second set, but Ketchikan rallied to a 17-17 tie before the home team evened the game with by a 25-21 score.

Players for Thunder Mountain High School and Ketchikan High School face off at the net during their five-set game Saturday at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Players for Thunder Mountain High School and Ketchikan High School face off at the net during their five-set game Saturday at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Ketchikan regained the lead with the hardest-fought set of the game, prevailing 25-22. TMHS responded by showing some of the dominance that typified earlier games this season, winning the fourth set 25-15.

The fifth set came down to a few dramatic plays including an improbable save by TMHS sophomore Braith Dihle with the score 12-12 that led to a Falcons point, sparking the visibly emotionally charged home team to score the next two points to claim the set and the game.

“I thought this game was a really fun one to play, just because of the back-and-forth, so I really liked how we were able to come back up,” she said. “This wasn’t my best game performance-wise — I’ve had other games where I felt like I’ve been more on — but vibe-wise I really liked this game.”

Thunder Mountain High School coach Julie Herman huddles with her players during a timeout in the team’s five-game set against Ketchikan High School on Saturday night at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain High School coach Julie Herman huddles with her players during a timeout in the team’s five-game set against Ketchikan High School on Saturday night at TMHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The hugs and celebrations among the Falcons players and in the stands continued well after the final point, as helpers were taking down and storing equipment.

“I love it when we get to play five-set matches and they come out on top because it shows the heart that the kids have the determination,” said TMHS coach Julie Herman. “It was high-level volleyball, they had a lot of composure because Ketchikan came hard and came full-strength, so that was a great win.”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

More in Sports

An estimated 185 people, many dressed in unconventional attire for running or walking, take off from the starting line outside Centennial Hall during the Only Fools Run At Night on Friday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau revives its summer solstice spirit with Only Fools Run At Night

Runners and walkers in madcap costumes fill downtown streets as race returns after six-year absence.

Lydia Jacoby, Alaska’s gold-medal swimmer, announced Tuesday she is withdrawing from the U.S. Olympic Trials. (Alaska Sports Report photo)
P.J. Foy does not advance, Lydia Jacoby withdraws from U.S. Olympic swimming trials

First-ever Juneau swimmer to compete in trials finishes 49th among 61 competitors Friday.

Trout Unlimited's Matt Boline holds a container with coho fry for official documentation of anadromous fish use in an unnamed creek in the vicinity of Juneau. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Survey says…

Our floatplane cleared the notch in the snowy ridge then turned slightly… Continue reading

Juneau’s PJ Foy, shown winning the 2023 100 yard butterfly in 48.27 for Thunder Mountain High School during the ASAA state championships at the Dimond Park Aquatics Center on Nov. 4, 2023, qualified for the 2024 June Olympic Team Trials by swimming a 100 long course meters butterfly in a personal best 53.44 on March 16, 2024, at the Speedo Sectionals in Federal Way, Washington. (Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire file photo)
Alaskans secure spots at 2024 Olympics; Juneau swimmer PJ Foy will try for his spot on Friday

TMHS graduate seeking to qualify in 100-meter butterfly at U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

At least one female wood duck has invented a novel feeding technique. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Wood ducks, redstarts, yellowlegs and flowers

Mid-June, and a few days ago we saw a wood duck with… Continue reading

Competitors in the AlaskAcross 2024 race prepare to depart from Eagle Summit at 10 a.m. on June 8, 2024. From left are Bruno Grunau, Mark Ross, Forest Wagner, Mike Fisher, Sarah Hurkett, Clinton Brown, Tracie Curry and Curtis Henry. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Journey through a sub-Arctic summer night

“You guys are the result of thousands of years of selection,” Fran… Continue reading

Barn swallows firmly attach their nests to walls, so they support the weight of nestlings and visiting adults.  (Photo by Bob Amrstrong)
On the Trails: Spring to summer

Spring temperatures were cool this year, but the lengthening days gave birds… Continue reading

In the spirit of Dolly Parton’s country music roots, race participant Mendenhall River Community School Principal Eric Filardi runs in costume with young Lucy Vogel wearing heart-shaped sunglasses as they enjoy the sunny Saturday weather on the Airport Dike Trail race course. About 85 runners participated, many wearing pearls and pink hats provided at the starting tent. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Busting out the pink and pearls at the first Dolly Dash

Dolly Parton-inspired fun run raises funds for free books for kids.

A cruise ship makes its way through early morning fog last summer. The passengers who have been arriving lately have not been experiencing similar tranquility. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Racing the weather

Daylight is unstoppable this time of year. Not like up in the… Continue reading

Most Read