Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The last season of high school volleyball action saw the Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé Crimson Bears getting a taste of the South Wolverines in the first round of the 2019 Alaska School Activities Association state championships.
South would eventually be crowned the state champs, Juneau would fall in the consolation rounds, and COVID-19 would cancel the 2020 season.
Returning seniors Paige Adams, Merry Newman and Brooke Sanford were on the starting rotation as sophomores on the state team in 2019. Junior Ashley Laudert traveled that year as a freshman with the varsity team.
“What I am looking forward to most is seeing how much we will grow,” Sanford said. “We have a lot of newer people so I am looking forward to seeing where we end up at the end of the season. I am excited to get to know all of them.
Adams said she is looking forward to having games and fans again.
“It will be a nice change to not have a quiet gym,” she said. “I am feeling good about our team this year because all the younger kids are learning fairly quickly. It is going to be a nice refresher having fans again because we had them for our first couple years and then had the big change.”
Sanford said it would help the teams energy having fans again.
“A lot of these kids haven’t played with fans before,” she said. “As sophomores we had them. I think it is just going to help the whole team really get their energy up and play our best.”
Newman said she is looking forward to the bare minimum of having a season.
“Because not having it last year has made me appreciate just the sport way more,” she said. “I am excited to get to know everyone and pass on the program to the younger kids. The three of us have played together for a while now and we all know what it was like our sophomore year, which was one of the greatest years ever, and just getting to kind of relive that is super exciting. I know everyone enjoys watching so I am happy for them too.”
JDHS coach Jody Levernier said the biggest hurdle for this season has been the lack of prior playing experience.
“We kind of have a young crew again,” Levernier said. “We have a lot of sophomores on our varsity right now. We scrimmaged Thunder Mountain a couple times last season and that was it. They haven’t seen other schools. They have a lot to learn but they are on a pretty good trajectory right now. They are making a lot of progress and it will be fun to watch them.”
The Crimson Bears open their 2021-22 season as co-hosts of a mini-jamboree featuring Thunder Mountain and Mt. Edgecumbe on Friday and Saturday. TMHS hosts the Friday contests at the Falcons’ gym and JDHS welcomes the teams in their home den on Saturday.
COVID-19 mitigation plans for the jamboree include players wearing masks and fans having to wear masks and social distance.
“They do a really good job actually,” Levernier said. “They just want to play.”
Friday game times (at TMHS):
4:30 p.m. court one - MEHS vs. TM1; court two - TM2 vs. JD1.
5:30 p.m. court one - JD2 vs. MEHS; court two - TM1 vs. JD1.
6:30 p.m. court one - TM2 vs. JD2; court two - JD1 vs. MEHS.
7:30 p.m. court one - TM1 vs. JD2; court two - TM2 vs. MEHS.
Saturday game times (at JDHS):
12 noon court one - MEHS vs. JD1; court two - JD2 vs. TM1.
1 p.m. court one - TM2 vs. MEHS; court two - JD1 vs. TM1.
2 p.m. court one - JD2 vs. TM2; court two - TM1 vs. MEHS.
3 p.m. court one - JD1 vs. TM2; court two - JD2 vs. MEHS.
CRIMSON BEARS ROSTER
Brooke Sanford (SR), Paige Adams (SR), Merry Newman (SR), Ashley Laudert (JR), Carlynn Casperson (JR), Kiah Yadao (SO), Remi Starks (SO), Mila Hargrave (SO).
Catherine Yadao (JR), Sandra Bouvier (JR), Kiyara Miller (JR), Amelia Francis (JR), Jade Clements (SO), Chloe Casperson (SO), Kaitlyn Forst (SO), Tatum Billings (FR).