IT TOOK five games Tuesday, but Jefferson’s volleyball season — and the careers of a highly decorated senior class — ended with a loss to visiting Hebron Christian Academy in the Sweet 16.
It was a back-and-forth night with Jefferson winning the first game 26-24, dropping games two and three 25-22, 25-22 before rallying for a 25-19 win in game four. That set up a decisive game five, which Jefferson (32-10) led 8-4 at one point before Hebron rallied for a 15-12 win.
Jefferson coach Mike Paul praised his seniors who played their final match.
“This is the group that has actually built this program,” Paul said. “Everything from here on up for the next few years, people are going to look back at this group of seniors and look at what they’ve accomplished and try to raise themselves to that standard, and, you know, they’ve set a pretty high bar.”
After winning the first game, the Dragons were in good position to go up 2-0 with a 17-11 lead at one point in game two before Hebron rallied to win 25-22.
“We missed four serves in a row and that kind of put them back in the game,” Paul said. “If we win that game, there’s a whole different perspective on it. (Then) they’ve got to win three in a row. Those four missed serves in a row were crucial.”
Paul said his team showed a lot of resolve to win game four and force a fifth set.
“That’s a credit to our seniors,” Paul said. “They’ve been here. They’ve done everything that this program can do. They refused to let that go at that point. So they fought and dug back and won that ball game. I attribute that to experience and just some sheer will.”
Jefferson will have a major overhaul next year as it must replace the winningest class in the program’s history.
One starter returns, as do three players who dressed out on varsity. Paul also notes that the Dragons will pull from a junior varsity program coming off a strong season.
“We’re going to have to replace some big shoes, but there’s a lot of time between now and August,” Paul said.
Jefferson got to the Sweet 16 by beating Landmark Christian 25-19, 25-20, 25-13 last Wednesday in front of a noisy home crowd.
The Dragons, playing as a no. 2 seed, relied on strong serving and defense to shutout the much bigger Landmark team.
Game two was very close as the Dragons committed several hitting errors, according to Paul, but Jefferson corrected that in game three.
“We talked in the game break about not giving them any free points in the third game,” he said.
Jefferson built a double-digit lead the final game and never looked back as it earned its first-ever trip to the second round of the state tournament. Paul pointed to the home court advantage his team enjoyed thanks to a spirited crowd.
“It was nice to have everybody here,” Paul said that night. “The only thing missing was the band … We’ve got a good group of kids. These senior girls have got a lot of friends. Having those guys (the students) here makes a huge difference.”
Statistical leaders for the match were Cassie Metcalf (one ace, five kills, five digs), Daniel (three aces, two kills, 21 assists, two digs), Taylor Cramsey (five aces, nine kills, one block, one dig), Eden Starnes (one ace, seven kills, two digs), Sarah Wood (four aces, six kills, two assists, one block, one dig) and Savanna Holland (one ace, seven kills, one block).