Keys to success: Seniors help lead resurgent JHS volleyball programFinding the root of success for the Jamestown High School volleyball team isn’t easy. Senior Siri Jystad said the program started to turn around when third-year coach Sara Hegerle took the job.
By: By Chris Aarhus, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Finding the root of success for the Jamestown High School volleyball team isn’t easy.
Senior Siri Jystad said the program started to turn around when third-year coach Sara Hegerle took the job.
“It really changed when she came in,” Jystad said. “We’ve gotten a lot better. It’s been really fun.”
Senior Brianna Hart said she felt the program made the leaps and bounds necessary for success over the summer.
“With camps and stuff, you could tell we had team chemistry,” Hart said. “That played a big role.”
Talk to Hegerle, and she’ll tell you it goes back a lot farther than that.
“I would say it started a long time ago when they were playing together in fifth grade,” Hegerle said.
Regardless of what’s at the core, there’s no doubting the Blue Jays have come a long way. Jamestown, seeded second, opens the Class A state tournament against East Region No. 3 seed West Fargo at 2 p.m. today at the Minot State University Dome.
A trip to state for the volleyball team isn’t taken lightly.
In a history that dates back to the early 1990s, the Blue Jays have been to state just twice — 1999 and 2001. They lost 16-14 in five games to Bismarck St. Mary’s in a state qualifier in 2008 and were seeded No. 3 in both 2009 and 2011 before falling short.
To put it in perspective, the last time the Jays made state, volleyball was played in the winter and the traditional sideout scoring system was used, which was eventually changed to the more favorable rally-point scoring system.
So, 11 years after Jamestown lost to Dickinson in four games for eighth place at state, the Blue Jays are back — highly competitive and certainly motivated.
“I think we all know we’re capable of winning state,” Jystad said. “That’s been our goal since day one. I think we’re all going in there hoping we play our best and hoping that’s good enough for the top spot.”
The Blue Jays are a strong mix of seniors and underclassmen, though there’s no mistaking the roles the seniors have played in the success of the team. Joining Jystad and Hart as the veterans are Billie Buchanan, Rebekah Horgan and Hannah Heilman.
Hart is limited to cheering on her teammates from the sidelines because of an ankle injury.
Her teammates, however, have made their presence known on the floor. Jystad is one of the team’s top hitters in the middle, as is Buchanan from the outside. Rebekah Horgan has shared duties with Josie Hegerle in the team’s two-setter offense while Heilman has given quality minutes off the bench as a hitter.
“I think they’re extremely important, even the seniors who graduated last year,” Hegerle said. “There’s something to be said about being a senior.”
A “glad to be there” mentality often accompanies a team that hasn’t been to state in more than a decade, which in turn can lead to stagnant, but satisfied performances. However, Heilman said it’s her belief that it can work the other way.
“I think we’ll appreciate it a lot more because we aren’t the team that goes to state every year,” Heilman said.
Jamestown already has a 2-0 win over West Fargo at the season-opening Bismarck Invitational. Sara Hegerle said she remembers the Packers as a team with good middle hitters.
“They’re very athletic; that’s the bulk of their offense,” Hegerle said. “We’ll try to serve tough and put pressure on them, offensively, so they can’t run to their middles whenever they want to.”
Buchanan echoed Hegerle’s analysis.
“They’re a pretty good team,” Buchanan said. “It’s a good first match.”
Regardless of the outcome, the Blue Jays don’t expect emotions to get the best of them. On the high side, they swept Bismarck High this season and beat Dickinson two out of three times. On the low side, they were crushed in a 3-0 sweep at the hands of Bismarck Century for the West Region tournament championship last weekend.
“We know how it feels to win and do really well,” Horgan said. “We also know how it feels to lose that championship game. None of us want to feel that again. Going into state, we want to have that feeling of a high, of being able to win and just do our best.”
Sun sports writer Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at email@example.com