The Jackson volleyball team has a lengthy list of goals set for this season.
The first of those was to win the home opener, something the top-ranked Timberwolves were not able to accomplish the past two seasons. And this home opponent was no cupcake — No. 3 Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma.
But Jackson was up to the task Tuesday with a 3-1 victory. Set scores were 25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-16.
“It felt good to be able to check that off their list,” coach Ashley Allen said. “It was a huge sigh of relief.
I was unable to cover the match, but spoke with both coaches this morning. Both saw some good and some bad and believe their teams will benefit from the experience.
“It was a good match,” Bellarmine coach Jody DeGroot said. “I think the first three games are a little better indication of what we’re going to be like.”
She said the Lions struggled with their serve-receive and let down after losing that close third set, where Jackson’s Payton Locknane closed it out with aces on two of the final three points.
“If game 3 had gone our way, it might have been a different outcome,” DeGroot said. “Game 3 was the one we needed to get.”
Allen said her team — rated No. 17 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com — needs to work on digging tips, which was a struggle at times last season.
“I thought we played well, but I don’t think we played to our potential yet,” she said. “That’s what preseason games are about. It helped us find what we need to work on.”
The match drew a large crowd and both coaches said the home-court advantage was a factor.
Courtney Schwan led the Lions with 17 kills and 20 digs. Katy DeGroot finished with 31 assists. Reghan Pukis contributed 9 kills in limited action. It was her first outing of the season, just six weeks after suffering a fractured ankle.
Allen is adament about not reporting individual stat leaders this year.
“We want to focus on the team,” she said. “In the past, the spotlight has been on one or two players, and I don’t think that’s fair to the rest of the team.”
Jackson finished with 13 aces, 11 blocks and 50 digs.
The Timberwolves get a chance to check another goal off their list this weekend at the 48-team Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas, which draws many of the top squads in the nation. While her players obviously want to win, Allen said she encouraged them to set a broader goal, and they settled on shooting for a finish in the Gold Division, which would be top-8.
“That would be a huge accomplishment and it’s achievable,” she said.
With a senior-dominated team, Allen also wants the girls to enjoy the trip and experience.
“We want to see what other volleyball is out there, and have a good time doing it,” she said.
She is anxious to see how Jackson stacks up on a national stage.
“I think we’re going to do really well,” Allen said. “I’m really excited to see how we compare to teams out of our state. I think we’re awesome, and it would be nice for everybody out there to see that, so hopefully we bring our A game.”