Saturday, September 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Jacksonville earns first volleyball win

Leader sports editor

The Jacksonville Lady Titans beat Hall High School at home on Tuesday, giving the team its first win under first-year coach Savannah Jacoby. Scores in the games got closer as the match wore on, but the Lady Titans won 3-0 by scores of 25-4, 25-9 and 25-15.

Jacksonville lost its first two full matches last week, 3-0 to Greenbrier and 3-1 to Episcopal Collegiate, then dropped three best of three matches on Saturday after being put in a brutal pool in the Spikefest Tournament in Little Rock. Jacksonville had to play Vilonia, semifinalist Benton nd two-time defending tournament and Class 5A champion Valley View.

Despite those losses, Jacoby, who is the team’s fourth coach in four years, believes her team is where it needs to be so early in the season.

“They’re doing really well,” said Jacoby. “Every single coach we’ve played, who has played us in the past, has told me they’ve improved tremendously from last year. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. But I’m also telling the girls I’m not just OK with being better than last year. We want to build a strong, competitive program here.”

Hall scored the first point of the match. Jacksonville took its first lead at 3-2, and that’s when No. 9 took serve for a long stretch. No. 9 scored 19-straight points on serve, including seven aces.

Hall finally broke serve to make it 22-3, but only added one more point in the game.

Lady Titan senior setter Elizabeth Brown served six-straight points to start game two. With Jacksonville leading 8-3, Shy Christopher served seven more in a row, four of which were aces, for a 14-3 Lady Titan lead.

The two teams traded service breaks to 20-9. That’s when Skyra Gulley served out the set with five-straight points, including four more aces.

Jacksonville pulled away much more slowly in game three, never serving for more than four consecutive points at any given time.

Junior Rebecca Brown led Jacksonville with eight kills. Kayla Rearden added four kills. Brittney Eskridge had three while Elizabeth Brown, Christopher and Aaliyah Brooks had two kills apiece.

The visiting Lady Warriors are practically a start-up team, and is led by former North Pulaski coach Benji Belton. He knows his team isn’t very good right now, but is excited about how willing his players are to learn.

“Most of these girls have never played before,” said Belton. “But I’ll tell you this. I’ve never had a group so willing to listen and learn. They’ll do anything you tell them. They just want to get better. I can work with a group like that. Watch us later in the year. I’m not saying we’re going to the playoffs or anything, but by the end of the year, by the time we play Jacksonville again, we’ll be a much different team. Just watch.”

Jacksonville, 1-6, lost 3-0 at powerhouse Little Rock Christian on Thursday. The Lady Titans will host Parkview on Tuesday.