Saturday, September 30, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> JHS girls regroup to avoid collapse

Leader sports editor

After dominating game one, the Jacksonville volleyball team appeared to be on the brink of disaster Thursday against Parkview. But the team regrouped and the crisis was averted as the Lady Titans pulled off a 3-2 win with scores of 25-11, 24-26, 22-25, 25-15 and 15-13.

Assessing the team’s overall performance, Jacksonville coach Savannah Jacoby just said, “I’m glad they won. Before set four, I didn’t really do a whole lot of talking. I was really angry and frustrated. I didn’t really know what to say that I haven’t said before many times.

“But then they started saying to each other everything that I usually say. We’re not playing as a team right now. We’re playing as individuals. Keep your heads up. We can pull together. So that was the mindset for set four. It took a little while to get it in sync, but overall I was glad to see them come together like that.”

Jacksonville’s Blair Jones served an untouched ace to start the match, and that was a pretty good indicator of how the rest of game one would go. Parkview didn’t get a ball back across the net at all until the fourth point, and it was wide. Another ace made it 5-0 and Parkview had to call a quick timeout.

Jones served long after the break, but Chandee Wesley got a kill to break serve, and then served back-to-back aces for an 8-1 lead. A Federica Bossi kill made it 9-1 and the Lady Patriots had to use another timeout.

The lead grew to 14 at 21-17 before the two teams traded points to end game one. Sophomore Macaela Smith, who was recently promoted from the junior varsity squad, served her second ace, and the team’s eighth, to put a stamp on game one.

Game two ebbed and flowed with Jacksonville maintaining a lead, until a major ebb ended the game in shocking fashion.

Jacksonville jumped ahead 8-3 early before Parkview battled back to within 11-10. Parkview (6-9, 2-8) was called for a lift that made it 12-10 and Jones took serve again. She served back-to-back aces, and Parkview failed on four-straight serves to get the ball back across the net. Wesley got another kill, Parkview hit long twice and Jones served another ace to make it 20-10. Everything began to unravel at that point.

Still, Jacksonville had six set points to end game two after a Jones kill put the Lady Titans up 24-18, but they never scored again.

Jones hit long on the next point and Parkview’s Sydney Norris took serve. Morgan Peters got a kill and Jacoby called timeout at 24-20. Kyndall Hardiman then blocked a Brittney Eskridge hit. A service ace went backwards off Basia Brown, Smith’s set floated into the net, Jones got into the net, Peters got another kill and Norris bounced another ace off Brown to complete the unlikely and dramatic turnaround.

Jacksonville (7-12, 5-5) couldn’t recover the entire third game. For a brief moment things appeared to be turning for the better. Jacksonville took a 15-11 lead and Lindsey Holt took serve. Hardiman made a diving save to prevent an ace, and the ball floated over the net, where the Lady Titans looked at each other as the ball landed for a Parkview point.

The Patriots tied it when Jacksonville failed to take advantage of a free ball. Two hits set up nothing, and Wesley’s routine free ball hit the middle of the net. The Lady Titans never led again in game three.

Things continued to go poorly until the Lady Titans pulled it together midway through game four. Parkview led 11-7 and appeared on its way to the upset victory. Jacoby never called a timeout, but her players began to come together. Brown got a back-line kill to break serve. Aaliyah Burks got a kill, Bossi served an ace and Brown drilled another kill from the back row to tie game four.

Parkview called timeout and scored three straight after the break, but Jacksonville dominated from that point. After a net serve gave Holt the ball, kills by Wesley and Jones tied it up again at 14-14. Two unforced Parkview errors and an ace by Holt forced a Patriot timeout. Jones got another kill before a bad call drew Jacoby’s wrath, which caused a delay as she made her feelings known to the head official.

The tirade sparked her squad, and Parkview did not score again. Jones took serve at 19-15. She served three aces with another no return. Parkview was called for a lift and Wesley added a kill for the 25-15 win.

Both teams played nervously in the tiebreaker set. Very few points were won. Most were the result of errors by the opposition. Jacksonville did slightly better than Parkview, winning six of its 15 points. Eskridge got two kills. Smith, Bossi and Gulley served one ace apiece and Wesley blocked a hit by Alexandria Walton for another point.

Parkview led briefly at 1-0, but Jacksonville never led by more than two points. The matched ended anticlimactically. Bossi got into the net to make it 14-13, but Parkview was called for a lift to end the match.

Eskridge finished with a game-high nine kills while Wesley had seven and Jones five. Jones also served nine aces. Bossi and Smith had four aces apiece. Jacksonville had 24 aces as a team.

The Lady Titans will host Sheridan on Monday in a nonconference match, and travel to J.A. Fair on Tuesday to get back to 5A/6A District 4 play.