NORTH JACKSON — With school finally starting last week and three straight days of tough competition, the Blue Jays were more than ready for a light weekend.
After some well-deserved recovery time, Jackson-Milton hosted Niles on Monday night, starting the night with plenty of energy, eventually beating the Red Dragons 3-1.
Victory was not an easy task, giving up the second set 25-17, while having to fight his way to a 25-21 victory in the third set.
“We came out of the first set really on fire, and told our girls we had to do it,” said Blue Jays coach Stephen Mohr. “We had the serve, and that’s where we control the game. When we have that serve, we have to hold it and go out and control the pace of the game that way.
Winning the first set 25-9, senior Mia Greco feels she can lose momentum at times heading into set 2. This has been a theme throughout the fall for a young Blues side. Jays who only have a trio of seniors.
“We just lose energy after the first one – I think we come out so strong that we die a bit and we have to work our way up to our best potential,” said Greco, leading the game with 22 points and nine kills. “You just move slowly and don’t talk. Don’t call the ball then it falls between people, just stupid mistakes then.
After a much more contested third set, Jackson-Milton took a five-point lead to kick off the fourth and final set. Having the confidence of a 2-1 lead helped the host team close out the contest.
“We just noticed how hard (Niles) was working, and we just tried to work harder. We are fighting, we are always trying to fight back,” said second libero Grace Johns. “They still have a chance to win, so it’s still nerve-wracking, but I still have faith in us because I know we can fight and I know we have it.”
Niles (2-5) entered the night with victories over Lordstown and East, but Red Dragons manager Taylor Pegg felt Monday night was their most impressive performance of the campaign against a quality program on the road.
“It was a phenomenal game, I think it’s the best my girls have played all season,” Pegg said, crediting Jackson-Milton. “The first set I had a different lineup than I’m used to, but it just didn’t work out, so I went back to our original lineup. They had a lot of energy and they really wanted it.
Johns had 19 digs, along with 16 points along with seven aces for Jackson-Milton (5-4), senior Paige Grope added 13 assists to her career school-best total. Niles senior Alaina Thigpen led the competition with 14 kills, scoring eight points. Mia Keeley added five kills and Emily Marino had nine assists for the visiting Red Dragons.
It’s hard to believe, but the middle part of the season is just starting to hit teams in the region. Despite the initial lack of college experience, Mohr sees improvement as the schedule progresses.
“We’re hitting our stride, we’re almost halfway through the break, we’re back to our conference play this Thursday and I think we’re pulling ourselves together,” Mohr said, with his team sitting at .500 with a 3-3 mark in MVAC play. “The idea is to build that momentum toward the end of the tournaments, and we’re still in the game for the conference as well.”