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Jackson-Milton rebounds after dropping 2nd set to beat Niles 3-1

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes Hailey Chudomelka (21), Grace Johns (6) and other members of the Blue Jays volleyball team react to scoring a point during the fourth set against Niles on Monday evening.

NORTH JACKSON — With school finally starting last week and three consecutive days of tough competition, the Blue Jays were more than ready for a light weekend.

Following some much-deserved recovery time, Jackson-Milton welcomed in Niles on Monday evening, starting off the evening with plenty of energy, ultimately beating the Red Dragons 3-1.

The victory was no easy task, dropping the second set 25-17, while having to claw and fight their way to a 25-21 win during the third set.

“We came out in the first set really on fire, and we’ve been telling our girls that we need to do that,” said Blue Jays coach Stephen Mohr. “We had serve, and that’s where we control the game. When we have that serve, we have to maintain it and come out and control the tempo of the game that way.”

Winning the first set 25-9, senior Mia Greco feels that sometimes they can lose some momentum heading into set No. 2. It’s been a theme throughout the fall for a young Blue Jays team that only has a trio of seniors.

“We just lose energy after the first one — I think we come out so hard we just kinda die and we have to work our way up to our best potential,” Greco said, leading the match with 22 points and nine kills. “You just move slow and don’t talk. Don’t call the ball, then it drops in between people, just silly mistakes at that point.”

Following a much more tightly contested third set, Jackson-Milton took a five-point lead to kick-start the fourth and final set. Having the confidence of a 2-1 set lead helped the host squad close out the contest.

“We just noticed how hard (Niles) was working, and we just tried to work harder. We fight, we try to fight back always,” said sophomore libero Grace Johns. “They always have a chance of winning, so it’s always nerve-wracking, but I always have confidence in us because I know we can fight and I know we have it.”

Niles (2-5) came into the evening with wins over Lordstown and East, but Red Dragons coach Taylor Pegg felt that Monday night was their most impressive showing of the campaign against a quality program on the road.

“It was a phenomenal game, I think this is the best my girls have played all season,” Pegg said, crediting Jackson-Milton. “The first set I had a different lineup than I usually do, but it just didn’t work, so I went back to our original lineup. They had high energy and they really wanted it.”

Johns tallied 19 digs, alongside 16 points with seven aces for Jackson-Milton (5-4), senior Paige Grope added 13 assists to her career school-record total. Niles senior Alaina Thigpen led the contest with 14 kills, scoring eight points. Mia Keeley added five kills, and Emily Marino tallied nine assists for the visiting Red Dragons.

It’s hard to believe, but the middle portion of the season is just starting to hit teams around the area. Despite the lack of varsity experience initially, Mohr sees improvement as the schedule progresses.

“We’re hitting our stride, we’re almost at the mid-way point in the break, we’re starting back our conference play this Thursday and I think we’re getting it together,” Mohr said, with his team sitting at .500 with a 3-3 mark in MVAC play. “The idea is getting that momentum near the end of the tournaments, and we’re still in the mix for the conference too.”

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