One Juneau volleyball team has nine players who are seniors, while half of the players on the other local team are new. The outcome — on the more experienced team’s home court — was not surprising.
Thunder Mountain High School’s volleyball team won all three games against visiting Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé by scores of 25-16, 25-11 and 25-17 on Friday. For both teams it was an early opportunity to evaluate strengths and weaknesses for the upcoming season, and plan adjustments for a next-day rematch between the two teams at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at JDHS.
TMHS is coming off of what coach Julie Herman, now in her eighth year, called the best season in the school’s history, finishing fourth at the 3A/4A Volleyball State Championships last year. She said after Friday’s cross-town matchup expectations are high since most of the nine seniors are returning varsity players.
“We are established in our systems and we’re looking to continue to grow our offense because we have played together before,” she said.
But Friday’s games showed there are areas for improvement, Herman said.
“I want to be able to push them, to earn more aces, more kills and more blocks,” she said.
Herman said she also saw strengths in the JDHS team she hopes to adjust to during Saturday’s rematch.
Every time that we play JD and we come back to play them there’s always been improvement from them on something,” she said. “Specifically, I thought that their defense was great. We’re going to back to the drawing board, and see if we can find some shots and some more spots tomorrow.”
Kaidree Hartman, a TMHS senior, said the schools share some similarities entering the season.
“I think both of our teams really had to work on getting new chemistry,” she said. “I mean, we lost quite a few of our big seniors last year. And so I think it was like both of us just seeing who could like get their chemistry in the quickest. And I think JD is definitely going to be competitive this season. And we’ve really got to expect some coming competitiveness from them.”
JDHS struggled last season, with two wins and six losses in conference games, but fifth-year coach Jody Levernier said she is encouraged by the potential of this year’s team with its large number of new players.
“This team is similar to the first year that I coached when I had a pretty excitable and really, really fun group of kids,” she said. “And these guys kind of remind me of that, they just worked hard all year long.”
Among the new players Levernier singled out as showing marked improvement during preliminary play and jamboree in Ketchikan last weekend was middle blocker Evelyn Richards, a former state champion middle school wrestler.
“She did a great job blocking,” Levernier said. “She worked hard this week in practice and it really showed this weekend. So those are the things that we need to do, is just keep picking those little pieces.”
As with her coaching counterpart, Levernier offered an upbeat assessment of the opposing team after Friday’s matchup.
“They have some good kids up at the net blocking and I think that sent a lot of balls into their hands that they pushed back over on our side,” she said. “So it’s good to figure that out, getting around them and stuff.”