The night before she sat with her left ankle elevated on the visitors bench, in obvious pain, watching her team lose to their crosstown rivals for the third consecutive time.
The scene — and mood — changed drastically Saturday night for Juneau-Douglas High School senior Riley Stadt.
With seemingly the entire class of 2019 standing on the black JDHS bleachers to her left, Stadt received the ball after her team just tied the fifth set at 14-14 in a marathon of senior night against Thunder Mountain.
“Our goal in our head was don’t let the ball hit the floor, that’s all we were thinking,” Stadt said in between posing with pictures with friends and admirers.
Stadt calmly delivered the ball over the net for the go-ahead and match point as Crimson Bears defeated the Falcons 3-2 (18-25, 25-17, 25-15, 15-25, 16-14) in the final regular season game. Sophomore JoJo Griggs crushed the ball off a back row player for the first point, and Jenae Pusich sealed the game with a crafty hit to the back right corner. Students emptied the bleachers and swarmed the victors as they jumped up and down in celebration and let out shrieks of joy.
JDHS pulls out the senior night win over TMHS. This one was fun!!!
18-25, 25-17, 25-15, 15-25, 16-14 pic.twitter.com/eq3pY65lOf
— Empire Sports (@akempiresports) October 28, 2018
Stadt led the Crimson Bears with 22 digs and five aces in the win. Griggs added 15 kills and junior Addie Prussing had six kills.
Stadt was recognized prior to the game with fellow seniors Skylar Hickok, Miranda Mitchell and Shaylin Cesar, who delivered a heartfelt thank you speech to longtime assistant coach Dale Bontrager. Bontrager stepped down from his post earlier this season after over three decades on the job. Dozens of former players were in attendance to congratulate and embrace their former mentor.
“Whenever you have alumni rooting for you, it’s the best feeling ever,” Stadt said. “You have everyone supporting you for a common goal and having Pat (Gorman) and Dale here and having them honored was huge tonight. It just put an extra level of sentiment in everything we did.”
The Falcons came close to spoiling it all, though. They won the first set handily, came from behind to win the fourth set, and had JDHS on the ropes in the fifth. Down 11-6, sophomore Sophia Harvey began feeling it. The outside hitter delivered two big kills as the Falcons rallied to tie the game at 12-12 and force a JDHS timeout. Harvey finished with eight kills on the night.
“(Coach) Julie was saying the second and third game we were playing for ourself and we weren’t swinging as hard as we could,” Harvey said. “The last game, I don’t know, something just clicked, and we were all celebrating each other. So that made a big difference.”
After trading points, Audrey Welling made what appeared to be the play of the game. The senior got a great pass on the left side of the net and threaded the ball through two blockers to put the Falcons up 14-13. But TMHS couldn’t shut the door, and after a timeout, Griggs tipped the ball an outstretched blocker to tie the game at 14-14.
“Coming out of the timeout, we really just went for every ball and we played for each other,” Cesar said. “So that’s how we succeeded.”
The Region V 3A/4A Tournament is next Friday and Saturday at JDHS. JDHS will try for their third consecutive Region V 4A title against the likes of TMHS and Ketchikan. The Falcons came up just short in the championship game last year, and have yet to win the tournament. TMHS (7-1) finished with the best conference record and will have the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. JDHS (5-3) is the No. 2 seed and Ketchikan (0-8) is the No. 3 seed.
Region V 3A/4A Volleyball Tournament
Friday, Nov. 2
4 p.m. Ketchikan vs. Juneau-Douglas
6 p.m. Sitka vs. Mt. Edgecumbe
8 p.m. Winner of Game 1 vs. Thunder Mountain
Saturday, Nov. 3
10 a.m. Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser Game 3
11:30 a.m. Competitions
2 p.m. Sitka vs. Mt. Edgecumbe
4 p.m. Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4
6:30 p.m. 4A Champion vs. 3A Champion
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.