After a one-year hiatus, the Juneau-Douglas: Yadaat.at Kalé volleyball team will return to the state tournament — a trip they’ve made over 20 times — after upsetting reigning region champion Thunder Mountain High School.
The Crimson Bears defeated the Falcons 30-24 in the Region V 4A championship tiebreaker match on Saturday night at TMHS.
JDHS defeated their crosstown rivals in that single-set match immediately following a 3-1 (25-20, 25-20, 17-25, 25-19) loss to the Falcons. However, thanks to their semifinals win on Friday over TMHS, which snapped a six-game losing streak, the Crimson Bears were given a second shot at the championship in the form of the 30-point tiebreaker.
Senior Addie Prussing had two aces and junior Jojo Griggs had six kills, including the championship-clinching point. Prussing had seven aces, and Griggs had 13 kills in the prior match.
“All season we’ve been saying that we’re going to peak right at the perfect time and did,” Prussing said. “We pushed and we played hard.”
Tasi Fenumiai, Avery Kreischer and Lily Smith had three kills apiece for the Falcons. In the first match, Fenumiai had 12 kills, junior Sophia Harvey had nine kills and senior Bridget Gehring had 22 digs.
“We did our job today — we didn’t win — but we did our job,” TMHS coach Julie Herman said. “We wanted that first match and we wanted them to have to beat us well, in 30, and we took them high into the 20s on that last set, and so I feel really good about that game. I really do.”
After TMHS tied the match at 10-10, Prussing, Griggs, Brooke Sanford, Merry Newman and Jenae Pusich went to work, each recording kills in 9-3 run.
Sanford, a sophomore, said Friday’s semifinal win was a huge confidence booster. TMHS swept the season series between the two sides and twice upended the Crimson Bears in the JIVE Tournament last month.
“We just knew that this was the only time that mattered, this was the only game that mattered,” Sanford said. “So we knew we had to put everything we had into the last game. So I think that helped a lot knowing that this was it, this was our last game against them.”
The Crimson Bears were without Griggs for the big win on Friday and much of the last month after an upper-body muscle strain. JDHS relied heavily on junior Kiana Potter in Griggs’ absence. Potter became the Crimson Bears’ go-to setter, a role she seemed to embrace.
“Kiana really stepped up her game the last couple of weeks when we needed her to,” JDHS coach Jody Levernier said. “She did a phenomenal job. She really, really played well the last couple weeks, the best I’ve seen her play all season.”
Potter said it was daunting having several teammates go down with injuries.
“And then last night we played Thunder Mountain and winning that game in three (sets), that was what we needed to figure out that we can do this, we got this,” Potter said. “And then Jojo comes back and has the game of her life. So we had it in us all along, and we just wanted to prove everybody wrong who didn’t believe in us.”
The state tournament starts Thursday at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. The Crimson Bears last appeared in the event two years ago, when they went 1-2 to finish fifth.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or email@example.com.