The Lady Kings had an extra boost of energy as they left Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium on Thursday.
And who could blame them.
The Ketchikan High School volleyball squad had just completed its second straight 3-0 sweep over Mt. Edgecumbe High School — something the program hasn’t done against the Lady Braves in more than a decade.
“Swag,” Kayhi’s Bree Johnson said about the back-to-back wins.
Yes, that stylish confidence was evident as the Lady Kings left the gym. There were smiles all around.
Kayhi won the sets 25-15, 26-24 and 25-16.
“(It was) so fun,” Kayhi’s Lindsay Byron said. “We haven't won like that in so long. We haven't three-pieced anybody.”
Three-piece: volleyball lingo for winning three sets in a row.
“I think it gives us a lot of hope, especially for this weekend,” Byron said. “We have a long weekend (against Juneau-Douglas and Sitka high schools). They're good teams that we're about to play.
“But it definitely got our hopes up, and it definitely is going to make us a lot better,” she continued. “... Our adrenaline is going to be high. We're excited to play Juneau and Sitka. Sitka is a good team.”
As is Mt. Edgecumbe.
The Lady Braves carried several leads over the Lady Kings during the teams’ first match Wednesday night, but each time Kayhi rallied back to win the best-of-five sets 3-0. The Lady Kings won Wednesday’s sets 25-23, 25-21 and 25-20.
“It's a journey,” Kayhi head coach Kevin Johnson said after Thursday’s win. “And we're growing up and we're learning how to win, and we're learning how to play through things — which before, we didn't know how to play through.”
The Lady Kings continued to be tested on Thursday. The two teams had a back-and-forth battle in the second set that could have tipped the day’s outcome Mt. Edgecumbe’s way.
Kayhi jumped out to an early 5-2 lead over Mt. Edgecumbe in the second frame, but the Lady Braves bounced back to win seven of the next nine points, taking a brief 9-7 lead over Kayhi. The Lady Kings then knotted it at nine apiece.
Mt. Edgecumbe responded by winning the next three points — 12-9.
Kayhi inched ahead, winning five of the next six points to take a 14-13 lead.
Mt. Edgecumbe’s Annie Larson recorded a kill in between Kayhi’s brief streak of tallies.
Larson, who is from Fairbanks, gave the Lady Braves a 13-11 lead with her hit. But just as quickly as Mt. Edgecumbe scored, it gave possession back to Kayhi.
A serving ace by Kayhi’s Taylor Jackson tied the set, 13-13.
The Lady Kings took a brief 14-13 lead before Mt. Edgecumbe tied it once more.
The Lady Kings scored the next three points — 17-14 — and continued to keep a slim lead over Mt. Edgecumbe as the two teams climbed closer to 25 tallies.
Mt. Edgecumbe inched ahead, 23-22 and 24-23. But a block by Bree Johnson forced Mt. Edgecumbe to carry the ball against the net, tying the set once more at 24.
And with possession back with the Lady Kings, Kayhi won the next two points for its 26-24 win in the set, and a 2-0 match lead.
“All of our kids know how to play hard,” Kevin Johnson said. “They're athletic; they're good kids. But as a team, you have to learn how to play through situations to learn how to win.”
The Lady Kings are becoming battle-tested, and seeing results fall their way.
“In volleyball, I think, personally, the most important points probably in game are the last five,” Johnson said. “The last five points dictates who wins or loses because whoever gets those last five gets to 25.
“And if you go back and look back at a lot of the games we've been in, we're scoring 22 or 23 points — and we'll be up,” he continued. “And then we'll lose the next five points. That's our team growing up and not having seniors. (And) that's something else a lot of people don't realize. They're all juniors, sophomores and freshmen. They're young.”
Indeed the Lady Kings are young. But that youth is getting valuable experience on the floor.
Kayhi sophomore Stevie Kamm recorded three kills in the first set on Thursday. Her third kill was set-up by sophomore setter Marley Lewis.
The third set started with another serving ace by Jackson — also a sophomore.
Kayhi and Mt. Edgecumbe were knotted up, 3-3, before the Lady Kings broke the tie to take a 4-3 lead.
A hard right-handed smack from Byron made it 5-3, and gave the Lady Kings a boost.
“It feels good (to hit it hard),” Byron said. “Adrenaline, again. It just is a good feeling — a great feeling. Good pass; good set to hit. It starts with a good pass. Communication.”
Byron, who is a junior at Kayhi, knows how much her hard hits pump up her teammates.
“I love hitting,” she said. “When I get hits like that, it makes me feel like my hard work is paying off. Every hour that I put in is paying off.”
The two teams went back and forth the next several points, but Kayhi kept a lead.
Kayhi junior Reilly McCue helped her team score a point, racing across the floor near Kayhi’s bench, and knock a one-handed bump over the net.
The score gave the Lady Kings a 9-6 lead, and they would win the set 25-16 for their 3-0 match victory.
“I just saw it coming, and I just went for it,” she said. “I knew I had to get there because no one else was going to get there. It was pretty far away.”
Even her coach was impressed.
“Reilly made some plays today,” Johnson said. “And she makes plays like that all the time, and people don't see the importance of that play being made on the court. Reilly probably understands it because she knows in the 'team concept' if that ball doesn't come up, then who's going to get it. That's one thing that Reilly does that's absolutely incredible. She takes ownership of that.
“But that one that she got to (near the bench), I didn't think she'd get to it,” he continued.
As Johnson said those words about her, McCue stood there in the gym.
Listening and smiling — with a bowl of diced pineapple in her hands.
Oh, how sweet victory tastes.
The Lady Kings have found their ‘swag.’
“It feels good to win,” McCue said.
JV Lady Kings win 3-0
The JV Lady Kings beat the JV Lady Braves on Thursday, winning the best-of-five sets 3-0. The scores were 25-15, 25-14 and 25-25.
The Lady Kings Juneau-Douglas and Sitka high schools on Friday and Saturday.
Here is the schedule for the weekend ahead:
Kayhi JV vs. JDHS JV, 12 p.m.
Kayhi varsity vs. JDHS, 1:30 p.m.
Kayhi JV vs. Sitka JV, 4 p.m.
Kayhi varsity vs. Sitka, 5 p.m.
Sitka JV vs. JDHS JV, 6 p.m.
Sitka vs. JDHS, 7 p.m.
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.
Spectators will be allowed inside Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium during this week’s scheduled games against all three schools. However, only those individuals who present tickets will be allowed to enter.
A limited number of tickets are being distributed by the Lady Kings’ volleyball program, and are reserved for close family members or friends. The limited number of tickets ensures spectators will be able to socially distance while seated on both sides of the upper-level bleachers. Masks also will be required while inside Kayhi.
Tickets will not be sold at the gate, and during days when school is in session, spectators will be allowed only for matches beginning after 3:15 p.m.
The varsity matchups are being livestreamed this week at kgbsd.org/live.
Varsity matchups also are broadcast on KPU channel 685.