The Petersburg High School Vikings volleyball team opened the regular season last weekend by hosting the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears for two days of games.
Petersburg’s team is particularly young this season, after graduating nine volleyball seniors last year; leaving one senior, 12 sophomores, and seven freshmen.
“We could be the youngest varsity team in the state,” said PHS head coach Jaime Cabral.
With such youth comes inexperience, but Coach Cabral describes the group as very athletic.
“They’ve been getting better every time they play,” he said.
The team’s young composition will make for some interesting match-ups this season, with teams like Sitka, Mount Edgecumbe, and last week’s opponents Juneau-Douglas being very experienced.
According to Cabral the Crimson Bears only graduated two seniors last year and four girls on the team have been to the state tournament three years in a row.
Facing seasoned teams like these, Petersburg will have to grow up fast, but it’s a great opportunity to face big challenges early as a group, work hard, and spend the next several years growing into one of the most dominating teams in the region.
In last weekend’s games many of the Vikings were playing together for the first time.
“Learning their positions, how to play next to each other, who can get what ball, just the comfort level of playing together for the first time could be a little overwhelming, but they did really well,” said Cabral.
Despite the Juneau-Douglas squad being very tall and showing remarkable ball control, in Friday night’s games the Petersburg defense was able to shut down their middle.
“Our blocking was pretty superb, making Juneau do different shots on offense. I think we had five blocks that went down for points and numerous touches,” said Cabral.
“Our timing was good. We had great defense from Kylie Wallace and Katherine Cardenas, our two outside hitters, and our big blocks and swinging came from Adana Kvernvik and Kyla Willis,” the Petersburg coach said.
Ruby Brock also shone on the court.
“She’s our setter and she sets all the way around in every single rotation, and she just understands the game really well. She had to touch the ball every time it came over the net. She’s kind of like the floor leader and she reacted fantastic,” said Cabral.
There are clearly some issues to work on as a team, ball control and passing have plenty of room for improvement.
“We got aced a bunch,” said Cabral. “Ruby probably ran ten miles during the game because our passing was pretty off, but our offense was there with Kylie, Katherine, Adana and Kyla. And our blocking was there, so it made Juneau play a lot more.”
In Friday’s games the Crimson Bears beat the Vikings in three hard fought games, with scores of 25-9, 25-21, and 25-12.
Saturday the older Juneau-Douglas team’s experience started to show. Friday the Vikings were shutting down their middle, so they figured out the Viking defense and started tipping, slowing the game down and pushing the Viking’s outside hitters instead of setting Petersburg’s strong middles.
“They made a huge adjustment offensively, and then for us to catchup and make the mid-game adjustment, our youth showed,” said Cabral.
Juneau’s ball control and serving were outstanding in Saturday’s games.
“It almost seemed like whatever they put a hand on was just a perfect pass to their setter...and they were just tough serves, floaters coming right over the net,” said Cabral.
“Friday night they tried serving at Kylie Wallace over and over again, a volleyball tactic to try and get someone out of their game and break them mentally, every single ball coming after you, and she handled it fantastically. Saturday they stopped serving to her and started messing around with other parts of the court, and our passing was just not there,” said Cabral.
“It was nice to see where we are. Defensively we made some really nice digs in transition, but we couldn’t put the ball away against Juneau, because they would dig everything up and hammer the ball right back at us. We couldn’t keep the rallies going long enough,” he said.
The Saturday scores were 25-11, 25-8 and 25-5 wins for the Crimson Bears.
Despite the sweep, the PHS team is optimistic and energized.
“We’re eager. That’s what I love about this group. At some points, with the score really far behind, they kept competing and still wanted to learn,” said Cabral. “There is tons of potential. We’ve just kind of scratched the surface. I know they are ready for the next level...”
The weekend’s highlights came on defense with Kylie Wallace and Emma Chase the top diggers. Adana Kvernvik was the leading blocker. Catherine Cardenas had six aces on the weekend, too.
“She did a nice job on serving,” said Coach Cabral.
Next week the Vikings play two match-ups on the road. First, they’ll face the Crimson Bears again, Wednesday night in Juneau, thanks to a ferry layover on the way to Sitka, where the Vikings will play Mt. Edgecumbe next Friday and Saturday night.