The Mustangs (26-4) could not overcome 17 errors in falling to the Jaguars (37-1).
The Mercy volleyball team came into the state volleyball tournament Friday treating the event like a business trip.
The Jaguars, the top-ranked team in the state coaches’ poll, took care of the first agenda item with a 25-11, 25-16, 25-16 victory over No. 12 North Oldham in a first round match at Valley.
“Two more days,” said coach Todd Garvey. The Jaguars (37-1) play South Warren in quarterfinal at 2:30 Saturday afternoon at Valley. South Warren, making its first state tournament appearance, beat No. 23 Southwestern 26-24, 25-9, 25-16. If they win that, they would face the winner of the Scott-Christian County in a semifinal at 8:30 that night for a berth in Sunday’s championship match.
Lexie Hamrick, who has committed to play at North Carolina, set the tone on the match’s first point with a kill, one of 14 she’d have in the match. While the Mustangs would take the next two points, the rest of the first set belonged to the Jaguars. Mercy used 14 kills and took advantage of seven Mustang errors to pull away. The Jaguars did not commit an error in that set.
The opening set came as a little bit of a shock to North Oldham coach Brett Versen, who talked to his team about believing they could compete with Mercy before the game.
“That first set we showed that we didn’t really fully believe that 100 percent,” he said. “It took us awhile to finally believe and get going.”
The Mustangs finally got their legs under them in the second set and would hold a 12-11 lead midway though. The teams would stay close until Mercy scored the final seven points, which included two kills by Devon Rachel.
Hamrick said all it takes is one play for the Jaguars to seize control of a set.
In many cases it’s a kill by her or Rachel, who had 11, or Jewell, who finished with 10, that flips the switch.
“Once someone gets a really good kill or a stuff block … once we start doing good, we get energy,” she said. “It just all works together.”
And while North Oldham would take a 10-6 lead in the final set, Mercy quickly recovered. Consecutive aces by Merideth Jewell gave the Jaguars a 17-13 advantage. From that point forward, the Mustangs (26-4) would get no closer than three points.
Garvey said he did not need to remind his players about taking opponents or games lightly and was impressed with their approach in the first round. The Jaguars are seeking their first state title since 2009.
“They’ve been really focused the last two weeks,” he said. “I knew they were going to take care of business.”
Casey Foote led North Oldham with 10 kills.
The Mustangs, who lost to Mercy in the 2012 state semifinals, finished their season with a 26-4 record. They won 22 of their last 24 matches and won the Jefferson County Invitational Tournament in addition to the Eighth Region crown.
“I told the girls, ‘It stings right now, it hurts,’” Versen said. “We had a heckuva season. They got better as the season went on.”
South Warren-Southwestern: The Spartans (31-7) withstood a game point in the first set thanks to a Warriors’ service error. Then, Sarah Pemberton rattled off two straight service aces to take the set.
The Warriors (31-8) never really recovered as South Warren jumped out quickly to a 10-3 lead in the second set. The Spartans benefited from 14 attack errors and 11 service errors by Southwestern to control the match from then on.
Spartans coach Justin Griffin said the team’s serving was a big factor as they landed 14 aces off the serve.
“It felt like we were in control after the first set,” he said.
Madison Jenkins led the Spartans with 11 kills. Lydia Jackson has 22 assists.
The fifth year program celebrated its first-ever state tournament appearance and victory Friday. Their reward is facing a Jaguars team ranked number one in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com. Griffin said they’re looking forward to playing a national power.
“I think it means a ton,” he said. “We’re a relatively young program. We have to earn respect. I think we are big underdogs. You just got to play your best and see what happens.”