JACKSON — For the last 10 seasons, the one thing has been a constant with Jackson volleyball is that the team wins 10 games or more.
Every season has had its challenges, but the Ironladies have always figured it out, and this season will be no different.
“It’s going to be some trial and error to start as we figure out a rotation that works out for us,” Jackson coach Jay Martin said. “Having a summer league this year definitely helped to have some experience and understand the speed of the game at this level. We have our work cut out for us, but we’re excited to start.”
A lot of talent and leadership has to be replaced following the graduation of top hitters Kloe Zink and Kaycee Perkins alongside top setter Halle Hughes.
However, for what Jackson lost on the offensive side, it makes up for on the defensive side, beginning with returning libero Kaydee Brown, who led the team in digs with 345 and aces with 35.
Also back for the Ironladies is Sydney Hughes, who did a little bit of everything as she had 213 digs, 69 digs and 15 aces last season.
“For my money, Kaydee is one of the top liberos in Southeast Ohio,” Martin said. “She doesn’t leaves the floor, communicates very well in the back row and serves the ball very effectively. After school ball ends, she goes directly into club volleyball so she plays and gets better year round.
“Sydney came on really strong towards the end of the season once she figured out the speed of the varsity game. She’s going to do a lot for us this outside in the back and on the outside.”
After those two, the amount of varsity experience is very small, but not nonexistent, beginning with the lone senior on the team in Jorja Bapst, who steps in at middle hitter following 61 kills, 48 digs and 20 aces last year.
Cloe Michael, Olivia Moore and Taylor Yeager earned some playing time down the stretch last season. They’ll be counted on to possibly step into starting roles as well as to take their games to another level.
While those seven will be the driving force of Jackson’s attack, watch out for Allie Bradbury and Haylie Johnson to contribute also.
“Our job as coaches is to put them in the best position to be successful, and all I can ask is that the girls continue showing improvement everyday,” Martin said. “They’re all very coachable, and I like the team chemistry, which is more important than anything. Though there’s some inexperienced players, I like the direction they are going and that we’re heading as a team.”
Volleyball is all about momentum and last season, the Ironladies strung together seven straight wins before bowing out in the tournament.
It’s been 29 years since they won a conference title and 28 years for a sectional title. And the element of surprise could be in their favor.
“We have to serve the ball more aggressively and be willing to take a few chances every once in a while,” Martin said. “A lot of pressure is going to be on our back row while our setters and hitters develop that chemistry during the course of the game. Once everyone gets comfortable and understands their role, then we’ll see what we’re made of.”
Jackson opens its season on Aug. 23 at Eastern.