Note: This sports story appears in the Wednesday, Aug. 14 newspaper on Page B1.
JACKSON — Over the past few years, Jackson has played hot potato with its win-loss record.
It’s been losing season followed by winning season, and if it continues that trend, then good things are about to happen for Jackson after finishing 11-12 last year.
“Our athleticism is overall pretty good and we have some length to us on the front line this year,” Jackson coach Jay Martin said. “The girls have done a great job buying into the system and the team chemistry is coming along very nicely. They’re making the game fun, which allows them to relax and just play. As long as that continues, this should be a pretty good year.”
One thing the team does have to address is losing five seniors at some key positions, but Jackson is fortunate to bring back four seniors, including Abbey Munn and Kylee Bako.
Munn, who will be a four-year starter for the Ironladies, finished last season with a team-highs of 271 kills and 40 blocks along with 173 digs and 25 aces, meanwhile Bako ended last season with 120 kills, 108 digs and 16 aces.
“Abbey is our go-to player,” Martin said. “She’s an outspoken leader for us and we’ll go as she goes. She’s a complete player who has the ability to play any position on the floor. Kylee is relentless as they come. She’s always on the floor diving for loose balls and trying to keep the play alive. They both give 110 percent at all times.”
Hitting won’t be an issue for Jackson with its top three hitters in Munn, Bako and Holly Sexton, who logged 116 kills, all back.
It’s the setter position in which those three rely on to do what they need to do, and with Gracie Walburn graduating, it’s now on junior Halle Hughes (142 assists, 123 digs, 19 aces) to take control of the offense.
“My setter always has to be a leader no matter what grade she’s in,” Martin said. “They are the ones who have to take control on the floor and have the ability to hold players accountable while held accountable as well. Communication is key.”
On the back row defensively, Jackson is going young with freshman Kaydee Brown setting in as libero and sophomore Leah Alford coming in as a defensive specialist.
“They have to take control in the back row,” Martin said. “We’ve had times where front row players have stepped in front of them and it throws things off. We need them to be vocal in the back and let them do their job.”
The Ironladies this season have a nice balance of experience and youth, which gives reasons for optimism. After finishing third in the Frontier Athletic Conference last season, they have a chance to win it this year even with Chillicothe standing in their way.
But for Martin, it all come down to one thing that can make or break this team.
“Mental toughness,” Martin said. “When the ball isn’t falling your way, you have to have that mental toughness to pick yourself up and fight for those extra points. We have a chance to be really good, but not if we beat ourselves mentally.”
Jackson begins the season Tuesday at home in non-conference action against Piketon.