Juneau-Douglas High School will go for its third consecutive region championship when they host the Region V 3A/4A Volleyball Tournament Friday and Saturday.
The 4A championship will be decided between JDHS, Thunder Mountain and Ketchikan while the 3A championship will be a two-team chase between Sitka High and Mt. Edgecumbe.
The double-elimination tournament kicks off at 4 p.m. Friday with JDHS taking on Ketchikan. JDHS has not lost to Ketchikan all season, and another victory over the Lady Kings will secure an 8 p.m. semifinals matchup against Thunder Mountain. TMHS received a first-round bye as a result of being the No. 1 seed. The winner of this game will advance to the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Falcons were the top-seed last year, but couldn’t get over the hump of winning their first-ever Region V title. JDHS stumped them 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-15) in their first game, and the Falcons lost again to JDHS 3-2 (17-25, 25-17, 25-13, 19-25, 15-8) in the championship.
It was a familiar exit for most of the players on the team. Thunder Mountain lost a one-set championship tiebreaker 30-18 to JDHS the prior year.
“It seems like every year we get a step closer to taking regions,” TMHS senior Audrey Welling said. “Last year we were first seed, but it didn’t work out.”
They have good reasons to believe it will this year, though, having dispatched JDHS in three out of four conference games. Their lone loss to the Crimson Bears was on Saturday, but even that could end up helping the team in the long run. TMHS coach Julie Herman said the loss exposed particular weaknesses and the team has been hammering away at them since.
“I feel like we’re stronger now after the loss than we were after the win on Friday,” Herman said.
As much as they celebrated their riveting senior night victory — and it was some party — senior Riley Stadt tried to keep things in perspective.
“We didn’t sweep them, you know?” Stadt said. “We have to keep working hard, we have to improve. There’s always room for improvement.”
JDHS senior Skylar Hickok hopes to use the win as a blueprint for success this weekend.
“The games before, they killed us on tips nonstop and so we actually finally did something about it and started getting every ball,” Hickok said. “Our main motive the whole time was just get every ball, no matter what it takes.”
JDHS sophomore JoJo Griggs, who led the team with 15 kills on Saturday, agreed with Hickok, saying the team needs to to play like there’s no tomorrow.
Because there might not be.
“We definitely have the ability to beat TM and the other teams that we’re playing,” Griggs said. “We just need to keep our energy up and our attitude positive throughout the whole match.”
The 3A and 4A winners advance ASAA/First National Bank Alaska 3A/4A volleyball state championships, which begin next Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.