A Ketchikan High School volleyball player, at left, unsuccessfully tries to hit the ball over the net, giving Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé the decisive winning point in a game Saturday during the Southeast Super Slamma Jamma Volleyball Tournament in Sitka. JDHS, after winning the opening game of the lower-ranking Coho Division in Saturday’s tournament, lost the division championship game to Homer High School in straight sets. (Screenshot from Mount Edgecumbe High School video of tournament)

A Ketchikan High School volleyball player, at left, unsuccessfully tries to hit the ball over the net, giving Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé the decisive winning point in a game Saturday during the Southeast Super Slamma Jamma Volleyball Tournament in Sitka. JDHS, after winning the opening game of the lower-ranking Coho Division in Saturday’s tournament, lost the division championship game to Homer High School in straight sets. (Screenshot from Mount Edgecumbe High School video of tournament)

JDHS, TMHS both claim victories of sorts at Sitka tournament

For previously winless Crimson Bears, advancing to a title game marks a step forward.

Here’s a surprise for people following Juneau’s two local high school volleyball teams: Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé played a title game and Thunder Mountain High School ended up in the consolation bracket during a tournament both schools were at during the weekend.

There’s something of a catch in that as TMHS was competing in the top-tier “King Salmon Division” on Saturday for the top five teams after the first two days of qualifying play among nine teams in the Southeast Super Slamma Jamma Volleyball Tournament in Sitka, while JDHS was in the lower-tier, four-team “Coho Salmon Division.”

But for JDHS — which was a winless 0-7 entering the tournament and the last-place seed among the nine tournament teams after the first two days, winning its first tournament game Saturday over sixth-seed Ketchikan by set scores of 18-25, 25-16 and 15-7 was a significant achievement.

“They had some of their better games towards the end of the tournament so I’m hoping that means that we’re strong towards the end,” said JDHS coach Jody Levernier in an interview Monday, looking back on the three days of games just completed and ahead at another tournament the team departs for on Thursday.

JDHS lost the title game in their division to Homer in two straight sets, and is now 1-15-1 on the season and 0-5 in the 4A Southeast Conference. But Levernier said she generally liked the quicker-pacer, shorter-game format of the tournaments, where her team was competitive in a number of the round-robin matches during the opening two days.

“There’s less sitting around, less waiting for matches to start,” she said. “Every 55 minutes there’s a new batch starting no matter what.”

TMHS, which has a still-dominant 14-2-3 season record (including a first-place 7-0 in the 4A Southeast Conference), was the second-seeded team entering the King Salmon Division play on Saturday, with an 11-5 record in sets played. But the Falcons were defeated in straight sets by third-seeded Palmer High School in the opening game, leaving TMHS to settle for the consolation bracket title with subsequent wins over Sitka and Mt. Edgecumbe high schools.

The overall tournament winner was top-seeded Kenai High School, which was undefeated in sets played Thursday and Friday.

Both JDHS and TMHS are scheduled to be among the 21 teams playing in 2023 West Spiketacular Tournament in Anchorage on Friday and Saturday, part of a series of statewide and tournament games during the coming weeks. Levernier said continuing to improve is what will make this a successful season for a JDHS varsity team with more half of its members playing their first year on the squad.

“There’s a lot of skills that we’re still learning and doing and practicing,” she said. “But a lot of a lot of what we need right now is really strong teamwork. And that’s what we just keep telling them. So I think sometimes it clicks and sometimes it’s harder for whatever reason.”

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

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