The Jamestown High School volleyball team's season hasn't been perfect -- but it has been progressing and the Jays took yet another step forward last weekend in Fargo.
The Blue Jays matched up against seven different North Dakota and South Dakota prep volleyball teams at the annual Fargo Scheels Invitational in Fargo. The Jays took care of Grand Forks Central and Bismarck Legacy in two sets but fell to West Fargo 2-1 Friday.
"It was important for our team to compete against good teams without time in between," JHS head coach Sara Hegerle said. "We look forward to pushing forward with a lot of energy and confidence."
Friday's 2-1 performance put the Jays in the tournament's gold bracket as the eighth seed.
On Saturday, Hegerle's squad easily defeated Fargo South 2-0 but ended up dropping sets to Sioux Falls-Washington, St. Mary's and Sioux Falls-Lincoln. The Jays took Lincoln to three sets but ended up dropping 27-25, 14-25, 14-16 in the seventh-place match.
"By the last match of the tournament our players were relaxing a bit and playing with more confidence," Hegerle said. "They have felt a lot of pressure during the season and it seemed they finally settled in and realized this is just a game."
Prior to the tourney, the Jays were 14-5 overall and 8-4 in the conference standings. The Jays have suffered WDA losses to Bismarck Century, Bismarck High and a tough two-point loss to Bismarck St. Mary's. Hegerle said the loss to the Saints was a catalyst for some reassessing and revaluation heading into the back half of the season.
"The season is about competing at a high level but most importantly it’s about the experience they are having," Hegerle said. "This team is making great memories and learning so many things about being a part of a team and the importance of each member of that team. It’s awesome to be a part of."
Prior to pulling together at the Scheels Invite, Jamestown swept Turtle Mountain and Minot in WDA contests to move up to the No. 4 spot in the West Region standings. The Blue Jays' next conference action came on Tuesday in Mandan. Final stats were unavailable when The Jamestown Sun went to press.
Jamestown will host BHS on Thursday and Williston on Saturday.
The three WDA teams had better watch out for what the Jays have proven themselves capable of.
Junior Bernadette Newman was the Jays' weekend kill leader, recording 44 balls hammered for points. Newman was followed by senior Hunter Petersen with 33 kills and junior middle Haylie Hakanson, who connected on 30 balls up front.
"Honestly, all of our hitters played well this weekend," Hegerle said. "They are all working so hard to be at their best."
Newman said in a prior interview that she was a little nervous heading into the tournament due to the heightened level of competition but added that the team's strong culture would undoubtedly help the Jays out against some of the state's most decorated prep volleyball teams
"Our team has really good chemistry I think," Newman said. "Sometimes we can get down but we can always bring each other back up. I feel like I just want to try my best to do the best that I can do."
Newman is the Jays' current kill leader with 113 to her name. While she is the only Blue Jay who is averaging more than 10 kills per match, Hegerle has said from the beginning that this team is one of the most consistent and balanced teams she's coached in her 11 years with the Jays.
One of those integral, balance-giving pieces is Hakanson.
Hakanson first started for Hegerle last season behind JHS grad Ella Roaldson. Hakanson ended her first varsity season with 60 kills and a 3.7 kills-per-match average. The junior has already surpassed last year's kill totals by 10 and is averaging almost twice as many kills per match. Hakanson is the Jays' third-leading hitter, averaging 6.7 kills per match.
In addition to her 30 kills and .269 hitting percentage in Fargo, the junior also popped up eight balls on defense, recording a 3.0 passing average.
"I've been working on getting better at all-around play," Hakanson said in an interview following a five-kill performance against Minot. "I've been working on blocking and passing even though it's not what I do all the time. Working on everything just makes you a better player and helps you be a better teammate.
"I think both of us middles work really well with our setters and our other blockers."
Having the height and reach in the middle has certainly helped slow down the team's opponents on offense which has helped the Blue Jay defense become stronger and more consistent.
Coming into this season, Hegerle was only returning two varsity defensive specialists in Aspyn Peterson and Rylee Joseph. The two juniors have helped first-year senior libero Jenna Fischer anchor the back row. The three accounted for 133 of the team's 260 digs in Fargo.
"We've been working a lot on defense," Hegerle said in an interview following the Jays' sweep of Minot. "I think they are getting better. They are really fighting to get the ball up. Defense doesn't tend to get a lot of attention, they don't finish a play, they start the play."
With three big WDA tests this week, the Jays will need to be firing on all cylinders -- like they were in Fargo -- from the very first serve.
"Blue Jay volleyball is on the right track," Hegerle said. "We got a lot of things figured out at the Fargo tournament. Every match was competitive and we are looking forward to the second half of our season."
Fargo Scheels Invitational
Blue Jay stats, 7 matches
Kills: Bernadette Newman 44, Hunter Petersen 33, Haylie Hakanson 30, Annie Nabwe 26, Katie Falk 24, Katie Trumbauer 11, Allie Panchot 2, Rylee Joseph 1, Makenna Nold 1, Jenna Fischer 1. Assists: Trumbauer 83, Nold 36. Digs: Fischer 75, Joseph 34, Nold 29, Peterson 24, Jada Walter 24, Trumbauer 22, Petersen 14, Newman 12, Falk 11, Nabwe 7, Hakanson 6, Kaia Dillman 2. Aces: Nold 7, Fischer 6, Trumbauer 4, Peterson 3, Walter 1, Joseph 1, Dillman 1. Blocks: Nabwe 14, Hakanson 8, Petersen 6, Trumbauer 3, Falk 3, Newman 2, Panchot 1.