Just before public address announcer Keith Perkins acknowledged the Region V 4A All Academic Volleyball Team, he paused to recognize the Ketchikan High School Lady Kings.

The hometown squad, which fell 3-2 to the Juneau-Douglas High School Crimson Bears in the region semifinal on Saturday morning, didn’t have anyone on the All Academic Team because the All Academic Team is only for seniors.

The Kayhi Lady Kings didn’t have any seniors this season.

And the team that’s listed with just three juniors, six sophomores and two freshmen on its roster came oh-so-close to beating a senior-heavy squad from Juneau-Dougals, and playing for a Region V championship.

Perkins thought the moment seemed right to acknowledge just how good the Lady Kings are.

“Let’s give Ketchikan a round of applause,” he said through the PA system inside Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.

One by one, opposing coaches from Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools approached Kayhi players, showing nothing but respect — and expressing how worried they are about having to play the Lady Kings the next two seasons.

Because coaches throughout Region V know how dangerous a young, talented team — like the Lady Kings — can be when they get hungry for victory after a difficult defeat.

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Kayhi head coach Kevin Johnson said. “I mean, that was six sophomores, three juniors and two freshmen. ... If they all come back and they all work hard, and they all put time and effort in and train as athletes — and get better as volleyball players — the future is going to be really bright.

“It’s not going to be just bright for next year,” he continued. “It’s going to be bright for a number of years.”

A day after pushing Juneau-Douglas to five games, falling 3-2 on Friday, as well, Kayhi rallied back to bring Saturday’s semifinal to five games again.

Kayhi dropped the opening set 25-6 on Saturday, and fell 25-17 in the second set.

But the third set was all Kayhi, as the Lady Kings won the frame 25-12.

Ketchikan won the fourth set 26-24, before ultimately falling 15-9 in the fifth, and final, frame.

“Sometimes I sit down, and don’t say anything,” Johnson said of his speeches between sets. “I let my assistant coaches take over because (the kids) need a different voice.”

Kayhi assistant coach Kreylynn Johnson huddled the team together before the third set — and the approach worked, as the Lady Kings controlled the majority of the third frame.

Kayhi and Juneau-Douglas battled back and forth in the early going, sophomore Taylor Jackson set up Bree Johnson, and Johnson pounded the ball over the net for a 4-3 lead.

She hammered the ball down once more, for the Lady Kings’ fifth point, and a serving ace by Lindsay Byron gave Kayhi a 7-3 lead.

“Offensively, Bree is our most cerebral kid,” Kevin Johnson said. “She plays smart. ... (And) I thought Lindsay played pretty well this weekend, (too). She put the ball down for us when we really needed her to.”

Kayhi juniors Alli Thomas and Reilly McCue combined to score Kayhi’s ninth and 10th points. Thomas was set up by Jackson, and McCue tallied a serving ace.

Kayhi outscored Juneau-Douglas 15-7 the rest of the way.

The 25-12 victory in the third set pushed the match to game four.

Just like the third set, Juneau-Douglas and Kayhi battled point-for-point early on. But a pair of blocks by Byron, and Jackson setting up Bree Johnson, gave Kayhi an early 4-2 lead.

Juneau-Douglas rallied back, eventually jumping ahead 14-9. But Kayhi remained even-keeled.

Sophomore Stevie Kamm came up huge for the Lady Kings, knocking down a pair of points to inch Kayhi closer — 16-13 and 17-16.

“Stevie has good chemistry with the kids on the court,” Kevin Johnson said. “... She had a couple key plays; she had a couple key hits. She had a couple key digs, defensively.”

But Juneau-Douglas stayed a step ahead, taking a 22-19 lead.

That score quickly became 22-22, and then 23-23.

A crafty soft touch by Bree Johnson tied the set at 24, and that put freshman Vienna Pahang at the baseline to serve for the Lady Kings.

“Vienna is an incredible freshman,” Kevin Johnson said. “And she’s a unique one, in a sense that, she carries herself like she’s an upperclassman. She carries herself like she’s a senior.

“She’s got a great personality,” he continued. “She makes our team better with her personality. She served the ball incredibly well today, and at times she didn’t. But one of the things that Vienna provides is a consistency and a stability that you know you’re going to get a competitor every time she’s on the court. Even if she messes up, she shakes it off; she moves on. She just competes.”

Pahang certainly served the ball well in the fourth frame, scoring a serving ace for the Lady Kings’ 25th point. And Juneau-Douglas was unable to return Pahang’s ensuing serve, to give the Lady Kings their 26-24 win.

The victory put Kayhi just 15 points away from advancing to the Region V championship.

But despite the Lady Kings competitiveness and spirit, the ball didn’t bounce Kayhi’s way, as Juneau-Douglas won the set 15-9.

“Game 5 was one of those games where our inexperience kind of (caught) up to us,” Kevin Johnson said. “If we say we’re going to place the ball in right-back, but we don’t place it in right-back — we keep giving it to the libero or the left-back, and they keep pounding away at us. Even though we’ve set, maybe not a great ball, but a ball playable enough that we can get our strategy accomplished.

“And that’s youth,” he continued. “Youth does that to you. Youth can do it for two or three plays. And you only have two timeouts.”

Juneau-Douglas’ outside hitter Merry Newman and libero Paige Adams — both seniors — seemed to always be in the right place at the right time.

“(Juneau-Douglas’) best rotation is when the libero (Paige Adams) is serving,” Kevin Johnson said. “They pushed five or six points on us each time.”

But the Lady Kings pushed the games to five sets each time this weekend.

“Fighting from two down, that’s exhausting — which the girls did,” Kevin Johnson said. “They gave themselves a chance. We just got stuck in that one rotation at the end.”

Saturday’s loss might have brought the end to a season. But it’s the beginning of seeing what’s in store for the future.

Because the Lady Kings aren’t graduating any seniors this year.

They’re all coming back.

“Coming from where we came from, and being able to go five games two nights in a row, with a team that’s beat us multiple times this year — and traditionally has a good volleyball program — I’m OK with that,” Kevin Johnson said.

Trio of coaches

The Lady Kings have a trio of coaches, and the squad’s head coach wanted to make sure both assistants were acknowledged.

Along with Kreylynn Johnson, Kayhi has Janiece Latismosa — better known as “Juice.”

“Juice is kind of our coach that keeps the kids even-keeled,” Kevin Johnson said of Latismosa. “She has that kind of relationship with them. She’s pretty even-keeled with them; they’re pretty even-keeled with her. So emotionally, she plays a vital role in that aspect.”

Kreylynn Johnson played for the Lady Kings in 2015 — the last time the First City won the Region V title.

“Kreylynn brought a little bit more technique to offense and defense for us, which we needed,” he continued. ”And my strength is going to be motivating our kids — pushing our kids to get past that moment. And my strength, too, is probably game experience — knowing when to make the adjustment offensively and defensively. Those are the three attributes that we all bring.

“And I like to say we have a good relationship with our kids,” Kevin Johnson said. “And the kids feel pretty comfortable with everybody on staff.”

Thunder Mountain wins Region V title

Just as they had done not even 24 hours earlier, the Thunder Mountain High School Falcons defeated the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears, 3-0, on Saturday.

But this time, it was for the championship.

“I am so proud of them,” Thunder Mountain head coach Krysti Sycks said afterward. “I was tearing up halfway through, just seeing the heart that they played with, the ‘we will not be denied’ attitude. They played their hearts out, and generally that turns out well. I’m proud of our program.”

It certainly wasn’t easy.

Thunder Mountain had to rally from behind in both the second and third sets, claiming victory in both, to win the Region V title — and guarantee the team a trip to the ASAA state tournament later this month.

The Falcons won the sets 25-21, 25-22 and 25-23.

“We are definitely really excited,” Thunder Mountain senior Molly Brocious said. “Our sophomore year, we got to the same situation, and it didn’t quite go our way. So we really wanted redemption, and I think we got it.”

Thunder Mountain carried a slim lead throughout the entire first set, staying just a few points ahead of Juneau-Douglas.

But the two teams from the capital city went back and forth in the second and third frames.

Juneau-Douglas jumped out to an early 3-0 lead to start the second set, and stayed a step ahead until halfway through the frame.

Thunder Mountain remained in reach of Juneau-Douglas, and was able to knot the set at 14-14, 15-15 and 16-16, before Juneau-Douglas jumped ahead once more.

Thunder Mountain’s Mallory Welling and Sydney Strong inched the Falcons closer, as they tied the game at 21 apiece, and then briefly bumped ahead to take a 22-21 lead.

Juneau-Douglas tied it, 22-22, but Thunder Mountain was able to recover, winning the set 25-22.

“This group has a uniquely great chemistry,” Sycks said. “A lot of them grew up together — the senior class. They’re just a really kind group; they support each other. When you get pushed in competition, and you’ve got kids that support each other, it’s really nice.”

Thunder Mountain had to push through once more, in the third set, as Juneau-Douglas jumped out in front again.

The Crimson Bears’ Carlynn Casperson started the set serving, and Juneau-Douglas scored a trio of points before Thunder Mountain had possession.

Juneau-Douglas extended its lead, 6-2, and continued to put more points on the board, holding a pair of five-point leads, 18-13 and 19-14.

But then lightning struck twice for Thunder Mountain, as the Falcons rallied back.

Thunder Mountain outscored Juneau-Douglas 10-4 the rest of the way, en route to its Region V championship.

Welling and Strong hammered the ball down for several points, and a key block by Brocious and Ashlyn Gates knotted the set at 23 apiece, after Juneau-Douglas had briefly inched ahead.

Thunder Mountain’s Moana Tuvaifale set up Strong for the match’s final point.

Strong, who typically uses a strong right hand to power the ball over the net, instead softly tapped it over, and the ball landed in open ground.

And with that soft touch, Thunder Mountain stood at the top of the Region V volleyball mountain — and will represent Southeast at the 4A state tournament in Anchorage.

“This team is one of the (closest) teams I know,” Brocious said. “Everyone feels comfortable with everyone. And we’re an older team — half of our team is seniors. So I think it’s awesome me and my other senior (teammates) get to go to state our last year. It’s definitely awesome.”

Region V 4A Tournament Awards

Good Sport Awards

Ketchikan: Vienna Pahang and Bree Johnson.

Juneau-Douglas: Cosley Bruno and Paige Adams.

Thunder Mountain: Molly Brocious and Jorda Raine Basaliso.

All Academic Team

(4-year seniors and 3.0 cumulative GPA)

Juneau-Douglas: Paige Adams, Cosley Bruno, Merry Newman and Brooke Sanford.

Thunder Mountain: Anne-Alese Rentrop, Joda Raine Basaliso, Riley Harp, Solveig Wolter, Molly Brocious and Sydney Strong.

Contest Winners

Passing: Juneau-Douglas’ Paige Adams.

Serving: Juneau-Douglas’ Merry Newman.

All Conference

Ketchikan: Reilly McCue.

Juneau-Douglas: Paige Adams, Brooke Sanford and Merry Newman.

Thunder Mountain: Sydney Strong and Moana Tuvaifale.

Region V Team Sportsmanship


Region V Team Champions

Thunder Mountain.

Award list courtesy of Region V.