Over the past month, the Jamestown High School volleyball team has entered the discussion of top teams in the West Region, but tonight the Blue Jays will have a chance to make a rather loud statement.
The Blue Jays, who have won their last six West Region matches, host Dickinson -- the No. 2 team in the West-- inside the friendly confines of Jerry Meyer Arena.
The Blue Jays were swept by the Midgets earlier in the year, one of just two West Region teams to sweep JHS this season, but this time around first-year coach Sara Hegerle believes her squad enters a little more prepared.
"We feel pretty confident right now," she said. "The girls realize that we're a different team now. We're not the same team that made error after error, we have a different outlook now than we did when we stepped on the court with them the first time."
The Midgets welcomed Jamestown to town on Sept. 2 and didn't allow the Blue Jays to score more than 20 points in any game. Jamestown was led by a pair of five-kill performances from Siri Jystad and Katie Ramlo, and just one team service ace in the losing effort.
But over the last six region matches, the Blue Jays have combined for 57 aces from the service stripe and have had six players register double digits in kills -- most recently, Jystad's career day against St. Mary's last week in Bismarck.
The junior hitter pounded down a season-high 18 kills to lead the Blue Jays to victory, but they have taken on an offensive identity that can feature any hitter on any night.
"We need to continue to mix up our sets," said Hegerle. "We don't have that one big hitter that we can count on in every big moment of the match. We have to count on a lot of different kids."
But success for the Blue Jays this season has relied mostly on serving and defense, areas Jamestown has improved immensely since Round 1 with Dickinson.
"We work a lot on serving," Hegerle said. "When you don't have an offensive player that can take pressure off you as a team, you have to provide it with other ways. We have some kids that are serving a lot better and some kids that are serving a lot more consistent than they used to."
The emphasis Hegerle has on serving is magnified even more with their defense.
"We work on defense for at least 50 percent of our practices," Hegerle said. "Defense, in my opinion, is what's going to win games, and so far it has."
While Jamestown (8-4 West Region, 16-9 overall) has been one of the hottest teams in the West as of late, the Midgets have been one of the most consistent teams all season. Dickinson has lost just two region matches and seven total all year. Both region losses came against the undefeated Bismarck Century Patriots (13-0, 26-5), who Jamestown plays next week in Bismarck.
"We have to make sure that we're prepared," said Hegerle. "Dickinson is No. 2 (in the West), Century is No. 1, BHS is playing some good ball and then we play Mandan again. The next few matches are all going to be tough matches."
The final stretch will heavily impact the Blue Jays' seeding heading into the West Region tournament, which begins Nov. 10 in Minot, so continuing to play at a high level will be essential over the next two weeks, starting tonight with Dickinson (8-2, 23-7).
"The girls are super excited," Hegerle said. "They've been playing some good ball lately. We've been practicing really hard and they're excited to have (Dickinson) come to our gym."