The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé varsity volleyball team celebrates a comeback five-set win against Ketchikan High School on Saturday night at JDHS. Ketchikan won the first two sets before JDHS won the next three, all by close back-and-forth scores until the fifth set which the Crimson Bears won decisively. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé varsity volleyball team celebrates a comeback five-set win against Ketchikan High School on Saturday night at JDHS. Ketchikan won the first two sets before JDHS won the next three, all by close back-and-forth scores until the fifth set which the Crimson Bears won decisively. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

JDHS, TMHS volleyball teams celebrate Senior Nights with wins over Ketchikan

Crimson Bears win five-set comeback thriller; Falcons continue strong season with straight-sets win.

On their Senior Night it was fitting the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball players showed their growth in a dozen key moments where inches made the difference in a five-set comeback win against Ketchikan High School on Friday night at JDHS.

An out-of-bounds ruling barely in the Crimson Bears’ favor with the score tied 24-24 in the fourth set. Strategically placed taps over the net putting the ball just past Ketchikan players a hair inside the sideline. Saves on hard spikes to cut off rally attempts by Ketchikan during the final three sets which JDHS won to claim the victory after losing the first two sets.

Kiah Yadao, one of the seniors on Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s varsity volleyball team, tries to get the ball past a Ketchikan High School player on Saturday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Kiah Yadao, one of the seniors on Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé’s varsity volleyball team, tries to get the ball past a Ketchikan High School player on Saturday night at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“There is so much improvement from this year, especially from the underclassmen, it’s amazing to see how far they’ve come as a senior to see that that’s they’re taking our places,” said Kiah Yadao, one of the seven seniors on Saturday’s varsity roster.

The marathon match also marked the passing of an endurance test for JDHS (7-34-1 overall this season, according to MaxPreps), which defeated Ketchikan (9-19-4) during the Juneau Invitational Volleyball Extravaganza two weeks ago, but this was the first victory in four tries this season against the Kings in 4A Southeast Conference play (which consists of three teams, including Thunder Mountain High School).

“I think it was hard,” said Chloe Casperson, another senior, looking back to the start of the season. “There was a lot of new people trying to figure out positions, trying to figure out what was working for us the best and I think we’re starting to figure it out.”

JDHS coach Jody Levernier said her team is playing more confidently and aggressively as they wrap up the regular season.

“We spend time talking a lot about not playing it safe, being aggressive and playing smart, and pushing through the entire match. Sometimes they would play hard and then they kind of get a little bit safe,” she said. “And then then tonight it felt like they just went out and continued to be aggressive.”

Thunder Mountain High School honors 15 seniors on its volleyball squads during Senior Night at TMHS on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of TMHS)

Thunder Mountain High School honors 15 seniors on its volleyball squads during Senior Night at TMHS on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of TMHS)

The TMHS Falcons (31-11-7 overall, 8-0 in the 4A Southeast Conference) had an easier time during their Senior Night on Friday, defeating Ketchikan in straight sets by scores of 25-16, 25-12 and 25-12. But the team is also getting a chance to evaluate how players have progressed and the prognosis entering the regional playoff tournament in the hopes of making it to state, where the Falcons finished fourth last year.

“They came in from middle school when there wasn’t a middle school program, or at least consistently,” said TMHS coach Julie Herman, referring to her senior players. “And so they came in pretty green. And we’re very proud of them and the growth that they can do running their systems and understanding the game, and I guess the with-it-ness, as they call it. They’ve come a long way and it showed on Friday night.”

While TMHS has dominated regional play, they are facing rivalries to the north they’ll have to overcome to make a run at a state title. As with JDHS against Ketchikan, the Falcons a week earlier managed to avenge a defeat by beating Chugiak High School — which won the title game against TMHS in the local JIVE tournament — before ultimately finishing fifth in the 20-team Dimond Service Volleyball Tournament in Anchorage.

“It was a great tournament for us, we played some really tough teams,” Herman said.

While TMHS has the stronger and more experienced local team during a season with nine seniors on its opening varsity roster, with JDHS looking to grow with five seniors on opening day, coaches for both teams say they’re expecting adjustments as they look ahead to next year without the players in this year’s graduating class.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball coach Jody Levernier takes a photo of players who are joined by family and friends during Senior Night on Saturday at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball coach Jody Levernier takes a photo of players who are joined by family and friends during Senior Night on Saturday at JDHS. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

JDHS has two juniors, a sophomore and a freshman on the varsity team who are returning next year, all of whom are developing into strong players at their positions, Levernier said. She said, much like this year, there also will be a lot of young players from the school’s other squads.

“We have a lot of freshmen, a lot of sophomores right now — we only actually have only two other juniors,” she said. “So a lot of freshmen and sophomores. So it’s probably going to be a fairly young team next year, but those are definitely some good kids.”

TMHS, which recognized 15 seniors from its volleyball squads on Senior Night, is going to be losing some of its best players at key positions, Herman said.

“Two of them are middles, two of them are setters and so that’ll be huge shoes to fill next year running the offense,” she said. “We’ve been telling our program all year ‘work on your setting, work on your middle, because we’ve definitely got some open spots next year and there’ll be room for you.’”

Only three varsity players are currently slated to return for the Falcons next year, Herman said.

“It’s going to be a growing season next year for sure,” she said. “So I am always up for the challenge and love challenges.”

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

More in Sports

A roadside daisy displays a fasciated center. (Photo by Deana Barajas)
On the Trails: An odd plant malady, a clever duck, and more

I recently learned about a mysterious, relatively rare affliction of plants called… Continue reading

Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau (right) takes a selfie with WSOP legend Phil Hellmuth in the background. (Photo provided by Alaska Sports Report)
Juneau’s Jacob Thibodeau and Mario Fata consistently cashing in at World Series of Poker

Anchorage pro Adam Hendrix remains Alaska’s most prominent poker player, but don’t… Continue reading

Heidi Reifenstein reaches Father Brown’s Cross to complete the Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run on Saturday, setting a new women’s record for the 3½-mile race with a time of 37 minutes and 40 seconds. (Photo by Jeff Gnass)
A mother of a mountain: Heidi Reifenstein sets new women’s record for Goldbelt Tram-Mount Roberts Trail Run

Longtime Juneau resident returns to peak form after taking break from racing while raising kids.

After a morning hike, a satisfying breakfast for under $20 hits the spot. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Food for thought

To my left is a man with a thick British accent who… Continue reading

The Nogahabara Sand Dunes in the Koyukuk Wilderness Area west of Koyukuk River. (Keith Ramos / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Alaska Science Forum: Mystery of the glass tool kit in the sand

From space, the Nogahabara Dunes are a splotch of blond sand about… Continue reading

A bumblebee pollinates the flower of shy maiden, which will turn upward soon afterward. (Photo by Bob Armstrong)
On the Trails: Flowers, showy and otherwise

The spring and summer flower show at Cowee Meadows (way out on… Continue reading

Athletes compete in a swim event at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center on Sept. 16, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: It’s OK to say an athlete failed at obtaining a goal

During the telecasts of the 2024 Olympic trials commentators stated that around… Continue reading

A brush turkey on a mound the size of a car (Flickr.com photo by Doug Beckers /CC-BY-SA-2.0)
On the Trails: Nest-building by male birds

Most birds build some sort of nest where the eggs are incubated.… Continue reading

Insects like these flies clinging to a tent seem to be in ample supply in Alaska’s boreal forest. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Insects of Alaska forest humming along

Recent long-term studies revealed a three-quarters reduction of insects in parts of… Continue reading

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