By Greg Gulas
Jackson-Milton’s Paije Kiraly wasn’t going to let a little thing like the flu stand between her and the Division IV district volleyball championship.
Under the weather since Tuesday’s semifinals victory over Columbiana, Kiraly registered 22 assists, eight blocks, 55 sets and seven points to lead the Bluejays over Lisbon, 26-24, 25-20, 14-25, 26-24 on Thursday at George M. Nace Gymnasium.
The win secured Jackson-Milton’s first district title under coach Sue Prozy as they now advance to regional play next Thursday at Solon.
They will play the winner of Saturday’s district final match between Mineral Ridge and Windham at Badger.
”This is really an awesome feeling,” said Prozy. “We’re a young team that just seems to be getting better and we’re peaking at the right time.
“This is my ninth season as head coach and while I’ve had teams start out strong, we just didn’t finish like I had anticipated we would.
“We’ve been to the district title game on three other occasions, falling short all three times so this is a very special win for both me and the team,” Prozy said.
Zaina Sahli’s five service points helped propel the Bluejays to an early 9-3 lead while Jackson-Milton withstood a late Blue Devils (12-13) rally to win the opening match.
Kiraly set the tone early in the second contest, notching five points overall as the Bluejays (18-6) posted a 25-20 win.
“After winning the first two games, it was as if we got a little cocky and they proceeded to humble us in the third match,” said Kiraly.
“We also had trouble with some of their serves in the fourth match, but were able to make the necessary adjustments and that really helped.”
Lisbon’s Kenadee Pezzano reeled off the first six points of the third game, notching 12 of the Blue Devils’ 25 points.
After building an 11-3 lead in game four on the strength of Pezzano’s four points, Lisbon was able to build a 22-17 lead, only to have Jackson-Milton’s Erica Hughes register six of her team’s final eight points to secure the victory.
“When down two games to none, we’ve had a hard time all season long coming back from such a deficit,” said Lisbon coach Cara Hardenbrooks.
“This is definitely an experience that we will use in the offseason as we look toward next year. We were 6-16 a year ago so I feel like we have made great strides,” she added.
For the Blue Devils, Pezzano had 20 points, 16 digs, seven blocks and six kills while Ana Sanor had 22 assists.
Kayla Hiscox, one of two seniors for Lisbon, added 12 kills, five blocks and one ace.
For Jackson-Milton, Rachael Obradovich had 20 points, 13 digs and three aces while Erica Hughes chipped in with 23 kills.