Juneau-Douglas sophomore middle hitter JoJo Griggs dives for a shot against Kenai. The Crimson Bears lost to the Kardinals 25-19 and 25-22. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas sophomore middle hitter JoJo Griggs dives for a shot against Kenai. The Crimson Bears lost to the Kardinals 25-19 and 25-22. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder off to hot start in Anchorage tourney

Falcons volleyball reaches Gold Bracket, Crimson Bears play in Bronze

Juneau’s high school volleyball teams traveled north this weekend for one final look at the statewide competition.

Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain joined 18 other teams at Dimond-Service Tournament in Anchorage. The action started on Friday afternoon with each team playing four pool play matches. Each match consisted of two sets to 25.

The Falcons swept West Valley and Homer, split with East Anchorage and lost 2-0 to reigning state champion Dimond, one of four teams that finished the day without a single loss. The Crimson Bears were swept by Kenai, Service and South Anchorage and split with Kodiak.

The Thunder Mountain varsity was originally scheduled to play in Sitka this weekend. But coach Julie Herman hoped they would gain entry into the Anchorage tournament.

“We got a phone call last Thursday and they said they had a drop and we were on their alternate list,” Herman said.

The Falcons rerouted their travel plans right away. With a 5-3 pool play record, the Falcons advanced to Saturday’s Gold Bracket with Dimond, West Anchorage, Bartlett, South Anchorage, Service, Chugiak and Wasilla. The first and second-place finishers of each pool went to the Gold Bracket, the third and fourth-place finishers headed to the Silver Bracket and the remaining four teams settled for Bronze.

“I think the biggest piece was we were really having fun today,” senior outside hitter Audrey Welling said.

Welling said it helped coming straight from the JIVE Tournament, which was set up in much the same format as the Dimond Tournament. The Falcons played seven sets against seven different opponents in the first day of JIVE, and played eight sets against four different teams Friday. They’ll have to play at least one extra bracket game to win another championship.

Welling said the most rewarding games were the 25-13, 25-7 losses to Dimond.

“There’s girls on that team that have college commitments and they are very good volleyball players,” she said. “So to play at a very high level against them was very exciting.”

Unlike the Falcons, the Crimson Bears avoided a sweep in their last match of the night. It wasn’t easy though. Kodiak won the first set 25-18 but yielded a 29-27 loss in the second one.

JDHS coach Brandee Gerke thought the win-loss record — 1-7 — didn’t necessarily reflect how the team played. She was especially proud of junior middle blocker Addie Prussing.

“She was hitting the ball really well,” Gerke said. “She was able to find the floor for us tonight.”

Prussing turned 17 years old on Friday, and said she was “just really pumped” to be playing on her birthday. Prussing and teammates played in the Bronze Bracket with Homer, Lathrop and Soldotna on Saturday.

“Of course we wanted to be in the higher bracket but I’m proud of how we played,” Prussing said. “We played hard all day and didn’t let up.”

Abby Dean got her first varsity minutes of the season. Dean worked herself nicely into the defense, Gerke said, putting up a strong block, one of the ways the Crimson Bears hoped to slow South Anchorage, who won 25-17, 25-11.

“We took some points away from them with our block; we took some points away from them from running our offense,” Gerke said.


• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or nainsworth@juneauempire.com. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.


From left, Juneau-Douglas’ Miranda Mitchell and Abby Dean combine on a return of serve against Kenai during the Dimond-Service Tournament at Service High School in Anchorage on Friday. The Crimson Bears lost to the Kardinals 25-19 and 25-22. (Michael Dinneen | Juneau Empire)

From left, Juneau-Douglas’ Miranda Mitchell and Abby Dean combine on a return of serve against Kenai during the Dimond-Service Tournament at Service High School in Anchorage on Friday. The Crimson Bears lost to the Kardinals 25-19 and 25-22. (Michael Dinneen | Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas junior middle blocker Addie Prussing taps a return against Kenai as sophomore outside hitter Jenae Pusich looks on during the the Dimond-Service Tournament at Service High School in Anchorage on Friday. JDHS lost 25-19 and 25-22. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas junior middle blocker Addie Prussing taps a return against Kenai as sophomore outside hitter Jenae Pusich looks on during the the Dimond-Service Tournament at Service High School in Anchorage on Friday. JDHS lost 25-19 and 25-22. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain sophomore outside hitter Mariah Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale sets for a return shot against West Valley in the Dimond-Service Tournament at Dimond High School in Anchorage on Friday. Thunder Mountain 25-22 and 25-21. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain sophomore outside hitter Mariah Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale sets for a return shot against West Valley in the Dimond-Service Tournament at Dimond High School in Anchorage on Friday. Thunder Mountain 25-22 and 25-21. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Marissa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale, center, leads the victory celebration after the Falcons defeated West Valley 25-22 and 25-21 in the Dimond-Service Tournament at Dimond High School in Anchorage on Friday. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Marissa Tanuvasa-Tuvaifale, center, leads the victory celebration after the Falcons defeated West Valley 25-22 and 25-21 in the Dimond-Service Tournament at Dimond High School in Anchorage on Friday. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Lexi Murray leaps for a return between West Valley’s Ellen Silva and Jozey Martallarro. Thunder Mountain won 25-22 and 25-21. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain’s Lexi Murray leaps for a return between West Valley’s Ellen Silva and Jozey Martallarro. Thunder Mountain won 25-22 and 25-21. (Michael Dinneen | For the Juneau Empire)

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