Kevin Johnson wasn’t sure how his group of Lady Kings would respond.
The Ketchikan High School girls’ volleyball team had just let a game against Juneau-Douglas High School slip away.
After jumping out to a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five matchup against their rivals from northern Southeast, the Lady Kings dropped the last two sets to Juneau-Douglas — 25-18 and 15-10 — and fell 3-2 to the Lady Crimson Bears.
But the mid-afternoon match was just one of two games the Lady Kings were slated to play inside Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium on Friday.
Kayhi still had another game to go — a matchup against Sitka High School, as Ketchikan is hosting both squads this weekend.
But Johnson knew Sitka was good, too.
Perhaps, even better than Juneau-Douglas.
“I hope (we can bounce back),” he said following the 3-2 loss to Juneau-Douglas. “I hope. You know, Sitka is a really good team. Sitka's better than Juneau. I mean, they'll three-piece Juneau. So that's just the truth, there. They're a really good team, and they're really well coached.”
But Johnson’s group was up to the task.
The Lady Kings rebounded against Sitka, and rallied past the Lady Wolves 2-1 in the best-of-three match late Friday afternoon.
Kayhi sophomore Bree Johnson’s soft touch walked the net before slowly falling on Sitka’s side for match-point. The Lady Kings won the third frame 15-13 for its 2-1 victory.
“It's that whole deal — you have to learn how to win,” Kevin Johnson said after the game against Juneau-Douglas, reiterating what he had said after Kayhi’s 3-0 win over Mt. Edgecumbe High School on Thursday night.
“And when the other team gets tough, we have to mentally toughen up, too,” he continued.
Juneau-Douglas slips by Kayhi
With no fans in the stands, as the match against Juneau-Douglas was played during the school day on Friday, Kayhi jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the game’s first set. Kayhi eventually won the frame 25-17.
Despite Juneau-Douglas inching closer, Kayhi stayed a step ahead, 15-13.
With Bree Johnson serving from the backline, the Lady Kings rattled off seven more points, 22-13.
Kayhi scored its 20th point during a volley that stayed alive with saves by Alli Thomas, Vienna Pahang, Reilly McCue, Taylor Jackson and Lindsay Byron.
It tacked on two more afterward, before Juneau-Douglas had possession.
A kill by the Lady Crimson Bears’ Brooke Sanford gave Juneau-Douglas its 15th point.
Byron then spiked the ball for Kayhi’s 23rd point — 23-15 — and Pahang flipped the ball over the net for the Lady Kings’ 24th tally.
Kayhi won 25-17 a few moments later.
Juneau-Douglas would tie the series 1-1, winning a back-and-forth battle in the second set, 25-23.
Tied 3-3, Juneau-Douglas scored 10 of the next 11 points. With Kiah Yadao and Sanford serving from the backline, the Lady Crimson Bears climbed to a 13-4 lead.
But Kayhi rallied back. The Lady Kings took a 15-14 lead as McCue had eight straight serves lead to Kayhi points.
The two teams traded possessions back and forth before the score fell in favor of Juneau-Douglas 25-23, knotting the match 1-1.
The third set was pushed to extra points, as Kayhi won the frame 27-25 for its 2-1 lead.
Byron helped the Lady Kings jump out to a 9-3 in the early going. Byron found open ground between Juneau-Douglas defenders for a pair of points, and blocked a hit that fell on Juneau-Douglas’ side of the net.
But the Lady Crimson Bears strung six points together with Merry Newman serving, cutting Kayhi’s lead to one, 12-11.
Kayhi responded by scoring seven of the next eight points to take a 19-12 lead. But Juneau-Douglas followed suit, scoring eight of the next nine to tie the set at 20 apiece.
Kayhi and Juneau-Douglas tried to outduel each other to gain a two-point advantage for a victory in the set.
Jackson gave her team a chance with a pair of solid serves over the net, and the Lady Kings won those points for their 27-25 victory.
But Juneau-Douglas tied the match 2-2 with a 25-18 win in the fourth frame, and outdid Kayhi in the fifth frame, 15-10, for the 3-2 final.
“We came out strong because we felt like we were on top of them,” Kevin Johnson said. “But when they decided to fight back, we decided to not fight. ... That fear set in when that other team decided to fight back. We forgot to fight back.
“Even though we went to Game 5 with them — I don't want a moral victory. I want a victory,” he continued.
The pain after a loss to a rival was real.
“We get to play Juneau tomorrow, and that's a good thing,” Kevin Johnson said. “But today, we let one go. We let one slip.”
Kayhi outduels Sitka
The Lady Kings were determined not to let a second match slip away, as they battled back to beat the Lady Wolves 2-1, after falling 25-23 in the first set.
Kayhi jumped out an early 4-1 lead in the first frame, but the Lady Wolves clawed back against Kayhi.
Sitka’s Ava Brady helped the Lady Wolves take a 7-6 lead, as she served from the backline, and Sitka eventually jumped ahead, 13-10.
But after Kayhi regained possession, the Lady Kings’ Shyla Abajian served an ace to inch Kayhi closer, 13-12, and the Lady Kings knotted the set at 13 apiece on the next volley.
As Sitka stayed ahead, Kayhi kept tying it — 14-14, 15-15, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 19-19, 22-22 and 23-23.
But Sitka knocked down a pair of points for the 25-23 final in the first frame.
The Lady Kings needed back-to-back victories the second and third sets for the win — and that’s just what they did.
They fought back.
Bree Johnson scored the first point of the second set after Jackson set her up for the kill. Thomas had a pair of serving aces to give Kayhi an 8-2 lead, and the Lady Kings never looked back.
Kayhi won the frame 25-14, forcing a third set to 15 points.
“We tell everybody the most important points in the first four matches are the last five points to 25,” Kevin Johnson said after the match against Juneau-Douglas. “But when it goes to 15, every point is important, now. So you can't ... get down five or six points.”
The Lady Kings didn’t do that against Sitka.
Instead, they went up by six and seven points over the Lady Wolves.
With Bree Johnson serving, Kayhi climbed to a 9-2 lead in the final set.
Abajian kept a volley alive to help give Kayhi its second point, tying the set 2-2.
Byron smacked the ball in open ground after Jackson set her up for the kill — 6-2.
Thomas scored a point after blocking Sitka’s hit — 8-2 — and Byron gave Kayhi its 9-2 lead, hammering the ball in open space on Sitka’s side.
The Lady Wolves bounced back, tying the set, 9-9. Sitka’s Chloe Morrison helped her team string five points together to the knot the score.
But the fighting spirit didn’t leave the Lady Kings, as Kayhi outdueled Sitka the rest of the way — until Bree Johnson’s slow roller landed on Sitka’s side for match-point.
JV Lady Kings sweep competition
The JV Lady Kings took care of business on Friday. One day after beating Mt. Edgecumbe High School’s junior varsity squad 3-0 on Thursday, the JV Lady Kings did the same against Juneau-Douglas’ JV team.
Kayhi’s JV squad three-pieced Juneau-Douglas’ JV team Friday afternoon, winning the sets 25-19, 25-17 and 26-24.
The JV Lady Kings also swept Sitka’s JV squad later in the day on Friday, winning the first two frames of the best-of-three matchup 25-22 and 25-20.
Kayhi will host both Juneau-Douglas and Sitka once more on Saturday.
Here is the schedule for Saturday’s matchups:
Kayhi JV vs. JDHS JV, 12 p.m.
Kayhi varsity vs. JDHS, 1:30 p.m.
Kayhi JV vs. Sitka JV, 3 p.m.
Kayhi varsity vs. Sitka, 4 p.m.
Kayhi JV vs. Sitka JV, 6 p.m.
Kayhi varsity vs. Sitka, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s varsity matchups will be livestreamed at kgbsd.org/live, and also are broadcast on KPU channel 685.