The long 2020 volleyball season is nearing an end and the Junction City High School Lady Jays volleyball team is riding a small high after going 4-2 over the weekend at the Atchison Tournament.
The team finished sixth overall after falling in a tight match early in bracket play, but finished the day with two solid wins.
“I think the girls definitely needed it,” coach Basil Nevill said. “I didn't really know what to expect in terms of competition, and how well we'd show up after two hour drive. But, they came out swinging and did by far the best we have this season. So, I was really pleased.”
The day opened with a victory over Atchison County High School in two sets; 25-18, 25-18.
Round two of pool play pitted the Blue Jays against Atchison High School. The Lady Jays got down early in the first set to fall 15-25. The team rebounded their emotions and returned the favor to take the second set 26-16.
Atchison took the final set in a tight 24-26 battle to give Junction City their first loss of the day.
Junction City recovered from the loss and pounded the scoreboard against Horton in two sets for the 25-13, 25-13 victory.
In the first round of bracket play, the Lady Jays faced Piper. The Lady Jays rolled to the 25-15 first set victory to take the early lead in the match.
Piper fought back in the second set, 19-25, to force a third set. Piper once again took control of the scoreboard and handed Junction City the loss dropping them down into the consolation round.
“I explained to the girls, we finished with a better record than half the teams in the tournament,” Nevill said. “We just lucked out in the one game that we lost to put us against a little easier competition. And the girls were confident going into them and so we came out the day with two wins to finish so it was good.”
In their second round match, the Lady Jays once again faced Horton who they easily ran by in two sets. The Lady Jays walked off the court with the 25-9, 25-14 victory to move to the sixth place game.
There they defeated Atchison County 25-23 and 25-19.
Getting the late season wins moved the team to 7-19 on the season. They also act as a morale boost as the team heads into their final week of competition starting Tuesday on the road in Salina.
“I think it gives them a lot more confidence in themselves,” Nevill said. “It takes a while for girls who play on all kinds of different club teams. It takes a while for them to mesh, to come together and some of these girls haven't played volleyball hardly at all. You know, even through the summer with sickness and being summer, we just didn't have everybody clicking until just recently. So, I think it boosts their confidence going into the last couple weeks of the season.”
Another positive Nevill said, was the way the team attacked the net and their opponents — something he has been looking for all season.
“We were really struggling offensively leading into it,” he said. “We we upped our totals from averaging about 15 kills a match, to on the weekend we were upwards of 30 kills a match. So, we really turned the offense on which which I was really pleased with.”
The hot offense is only as good as the defense in a game such as volleyball. Nevill said the team has been working on those timing issues and getting things set back up to be able to hold the defensive posture they should against teams.
“I feel like we finally got girls that are clicking and running things well,” he said. “In practice leading up to the weekend, we talked a lot about blocking and making sure that we were up before the hitters were swinging. And I felt like we did a nice job getting a lot of hands on balls that really helped our defense out.”
Tuesday in Salina the Lady Jays will take on Salina Central and Salina South, two new teams they haven’t squared off against.
“(I) always like new competition,” Nevill said. “We got to go in with the right mindset knowing that we're the aggressor, that we're going to be the most competitive team there and I think we'll have lots of success.”
Saturday the regular season ends at the Highland Park Tournament where the Lady Jays will face off against Centennial League opponents Highland Park and Topeka West and some other teams that could end with ticks in the win column — Kapaun Mt. Carmel and Shawnee Mission North.
“We have a chance with some more wins,” Nevill said. “As long as we come out with the right mindset, come out fighting hard.”
The Lady Jays will return to Shenk Gymnasium on Oct. 24 as they host Manhattan, Topeka and Washburn Rural in the opening round of sub-state.
“So, right now we're duking it out trying to find what place we fall in,” Nevill said. “So more than likely, Washburn will be the top seed and then the other three teams are duking it out to see who plays each other and who plays Washburn.”
Nevill said he was honored to host the matchups as it gives his seniors one last chance to suit up in front of a home crowd and as a send off to the gymnasium.
“Well it's great for our squad (and) for our town,” he said. “It's the last go round for Shenk Gym for volleyball. So I think, it's a good way to kind of close things down.”
Though the season has been tough, Nevill said things are looking up for the Lady Jays as the season closes out and he is “just glad we're getting to play.”
“The futures bright, we're gonna keep fighting,” he added.