Even though Merideth Jewell and her Mercy Academy volleyball teammates are undefeated in 29 matches, she still believes her Jaguars have yet to peak.
“We can only go up from here,” the senior said after the host Jaguars’ four-set victory over rival Assumption Thursday night. Mercy rebounded from a second set stumble to win the match 25-23, 15-25, 25-18, 25-23 and beat Assumption for the third time this year.
Mercy, the top-ranked high school volleyball team in the nation according to MaxPreps and PrepVolleyball.com, lost a set for only the third time this season. It marked the second time they yielded one to the Rockets (28-5), who were ranked as high as No. 2 nationally by PrepVolleyball as recently as this past week.
But it could have been worse for the Jaguars. In the first set, Assumption led 21-20 and 23-22, but two service errors allowed Mercy to tie. They served out the set after the second miscue. Rockets coach Ron Kordes thought that was a critical part of the match.
“I thought we played some really good ball,” he said.
The Rockets took advantage of some sloppy play by Mercy in the second set, outscoring the Jaguars 17-7 to end what Jewell and teammate Devon Rachel called the Jaguars’ worst game of the year. After the game, coach Todd Garvey pulled the team off the gym and into the locker room to regain their composure.
Garvey said he’ll do that at times when the team is playing at home in front of a large and loud crowd. He used the brief pep talk to remind the Jaguars they are one of the best teams in the nation.
“There for a while I think they lost track of that,” he said.
Jewell helped the Jaguars recover in the third set as she scored six of her 22 kills in the game. She had two consecutive kills to put her team up 14-13 and they pulled away from there.
In the fourth set, Rachel scored three of her 13 kills in a five-point span to help turn a 12-all tie into a 16-13 Mercy lead. Her final kill gave Mercy a 24-21 lead. Assumption would score the next two points before committing a net violation to end the set and match.
Rachel said the trip to the locker room helped.
“It’s just a lot easier to get our thoughts together,” she said.
Jewell said Mercy peaked too early last year, eventually losing to the rival Rockets in the state semifinals. This year she said the coaches have been pushing them to do better.
“This year we’ve been really disciplined,” she said.
That discipline paid off as the Rockets defense did its best to disrupt the Jaguars attack. Garvey thought his team might have telegraphed some of its passes to help Assumption prepare its digs, but he credited Mercy’s resolve for staying patient and limiting errors.
Jacqueline Askin led Assumption with 18 kills.