Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PIKETON — All early indications point to Jackson having a fighter’s mentality. They may absorb several punches, but the Ironladies are looking to land the knockout blow.
That’s exactly what happened in the team’s trip to Piketon, Monday evening.
In both teams’ season openers, the Ironladies (1-0) handed the Redstreaks a five-set loss by an 18-25, 27-25, 15-25, 25-11, 15-6 final.
“In the first game, both teams are going to have nerves. It’s really about who can control their nerves and fundamentally play good volleyball. It’s a game of momentum,” Jackson coach Jay Martin said. “We talked about positive plays and I talked to the seniors about stepping up and taking control on the court. In the fifth set, whoever can handle serve receive will probably win. That was just it. It was a good outcome for us.”
The Ironladies’ gritty resolve was on full display at several key junctures.
That was proven in the second set, where they trailed 23-20 and were face-to-face with a 2-0 match deficit. But that never happened as Jackson ripped off a 4-0 run to take a late lead before, eventually, evening the match.
It was a perfect embodiment of what Martin saw all night long.
“We’ve got some younger players who are getting their first varsity experience and they stepped up and played well for us,” Martin said. “Then, you count on your returning players to be your leaders and they were just that.”
Zink and Brown lead the way
Senior captain Kloe Zink was phenomenal throughout the match. The outside hitter led the team with 18 kills and 11 digs, continually punching holes into the Redstreaks’ defense.
Teaming up with Zink to carry the team defensively was sophomore libero Kaydee Brown. Aside from playing an imperative role in the final set from the service line, Brown tallied a team-high 26 digs alongside four aces and 37 serve receptions.
“Kloe is one of our team captains and when she’s hot, she puts the ball down,” Martin said. “Last year, she played middle for us and this year, we moved her outside to give her more swings. She just hits a real heavy ball. And Kaydee is one of the best passers in southeastern Ohio. She started for us as a freshman last year and her court awareness, you can’t teach it. Both players have such a high volleyball IQ.”
Tale of the tape
The Redstreaks (0-1) jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first set behind the play of Jazz Lamerson and Ava Little. That advantage later swelled to 22-14 before Piketon nailed down a match-opening 25-18 win.
In the second, after trailing 20-15, Zink led Jackson on a 8-3 run to tie the game. Later, tied 25-25, Zink sent a ball screaming to the floor before the Ironladies evened the match on an ace from Payton Taylor.
The see-saw effect continued in the third where Piketon took a 15-10 lead and never looked back. Lamerson, Little and Chloe Little were instrumental in a 10-5 run to end the set and give the Redstreaks a 2-1 match lead.
The same could be said of the fourth set where Kaycee Perkins helped Jackson seize a 15-9 advantage. By the time the Ironladies ended a 13-4 run, they were in command of a 19-10 lead. That momentum carried them to a 25-11 victory and into the fifth and deciding set.
In the fifth, tied 4-4, Leah Alford stepped to the service line and ripped off four straight points to put Jackson ahead 8-4. From there, the Ironladies ended the match on a 7-2 run.
“Coach just told us to keep our heads up and to fight hard,” senior Halle Hughes said. “We’ve had a lot of scrimmages where we’ve played more than five sets, so that was our goal … to double down in the fifth. We gave it everything we had and we got a win.”
After Zink’s stat line, Perkins added 14 kills and three blocks to the mix while freshman Sydney Hughes had seven kills and 12 digs. Taylor ended the night with three aces, 16 assists and 19 digs, and Halle Hughes totaled six digs and 17 assists.
Lamerson led Piketon 10 kills, 21 digs and four aces, Ava Little tallied nine kills, 17 assists and 12 digs, Chloe Little posted seven kills and 15 digs, and Julia Rockwell finished with 15 digs.
What’s on tap
The Ironladies are back in action on Tuesday as they travel to Logan for a non-conference game. Meanwhile, the Redstreaks will look for their first win on Wednesday, hosting West Union.
“We’re ecstatic to be back in the swing of things,” Martin said. “The girls are happy just to be able to play. It’s a big, big step in trying to get back to normal. We’re taking all the precautions that we’ve been instructed to take. This is what fall is about for us.”