The Juneau-Douglas High School volleyball team’s senior night is Saturday right before its regular season finale against Thunder Mountain at 6:30 p.m.
In addition to saying goodbye to Riley Stadt, Shaylin Cesar, Skylar Hickok and Miranda Mitchell, the Crimson Bears family will also salute longtime assistant coach Dale Bontrager, who is weighing retirement at the end of this season after over 35 years with the program.
For Bontrager, it would be a fitting senior class to go out with: The class of 2019’s JDHS roots stretch almost as deep as his own. Skylar’s mom, Karn, and Cesar’s mom, Nancy, played together under Bontrager in the late-1980s when he was still a fairly new coach (he began volunteering in 1980). According to Bontrager, there’s actually several other mom-daughter duos that share the same distinction, such as Kari and Katie Monagle and Helene and Dominique Stitt. Katie Monagle graduated in 2006; Stitt graduated in 2015.
“I’ve loved it all,” Bontrager said. “It’s been a fantastic experience for me.”
Bontrager said the parallels between one generation and the next were hard to miss.
“With Katie, it was the work ethic and just constant hustle, constant go-go-go. Just do the best you can all the time and do it 100 percent,” Bontrager said.“With Skylar, her and her mom have the same smile and there’s always a twinkle in their eye. … Both of them were strong leaders and kind of the social backbone of the team. And then with Shaylin, it’s back to giving it all you got, all of the time.”
Bontrager’s pending departure could make Pat Gorman the longest-tenured coach on staff. Gorman started volunteering with the team in 1989, and hasn’t ruled out another season on the bench, calling a return “a game time decision.” Gorman said it’s harder for him to draw concrete comparisons between family members.
“What we coach and how we coach has changed so much, there’s almost nothing that’s the same,” he said. “Back in the day we played side-out scoring, it wasn’t rally scoring, games were to 15 … you couldn’t use your hands on the first ball. That was an automatic lift.”
Skylar Hickok said its strange to hear coaches talk about her and her mom in the same breath, especially when it comes to sports.
“I know my mom as a 40-year-old woman, and I’m like, ‘It’s weird that she used to be an athlete,’” Hickok said. “But my mom’s super athletic in everything she does so (playing for JDHS) is definitely something to make her proud of (me).”
Cesar said her mom was the reason she started playing and gets a kick out of having the same coaches.
“It’s really cool,” she said. “Especially when she tells me stories from when she was in high school about them.”
Stadt and Mitchell said they’ve most enjoyed the program’s welcoming culture.
“Coming in freshman year, it was intimidating starting out on a varsity team as a 14 year old (on) a very senior-dominant team,” Stadt said. “But everyone was super welcoming and very honest to me. They always pushed me and wanted me to be better and that’s built up every year of high school.”
Mitchell said the volleyball is the one sport that’s always been able to lighten her mood.
“Volleyball was a defintely a place to relieve stress and it was always a happy place for me,” Mitchell said. “Regardless of not making varsity the other years it was just so much fun that I just kept coming back, and eventually, hard work paid off.”
JDHS plays Thunder Mountain in the Thunderdome on Friday at 8 p.m. The Falcons will also be celebrating their senior night. The TMHS seniors are Tara Dymock, Lani Eshnaur, Hannah Harvey, Kellie James, Kyra Jenkins Hayes, Sydney Lee, Alex Murray, Kiley Stevens, Marssa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale and Audrey Welling. Read about the Falcons senior class on Sunday.
The Region V Volleyball Tournament is next Friday and Saturday at JDHS.