The Jamestown High School volleyball team is still trying to figure out the identity of the 2021 Blue Jay squad.
"We're just trying to figure out who we are," JHS head coach Sara Hegerle said. "We didn't prepare for Mandan, but now that we are getting closer to bringing something together, we'll make the push here."
While the Jays walked into Mandan Tuesday night a little unprepared and unenergetic, the team still managed to take care of the Braves in four sets, topping the home team 25-21, 24-26, 25-8, 25-22. The Blue Jays are 18-9 overall and 9-4 in the West Region.
Mandan is the No. 4 team in the West right now, with a 9-5 conference record. The Braves are split at 14-14 on the year.
Jamestown will face the WDA's No. 2 squad, Bismarck High, Thursday evening at Jerry Meyer Arena. The Dig Pink match is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Jamestown's mantra ever since losing a two-point match to Bismarck St. Mary's on Sept. 30, has been to up the energy and intensity of each match. Hegerle said it was a little more challenging to keep the energy high with a couple of girls just coming back from seasonal colds and others suffering through some mid-season injuries.
"On a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the most energetic, I would say we were at about a 7 tonight," Hegerle said. "They know the energy was lower. We talked about it. We maintained good composure throughout the game so the lack of energy didn't show as much."
The Jays also switched their lineup and tried some new looks against the Braves. The switch in positions gave the Jays a certain edge and focus.
"I've been working on this lineup the last couple of days and we just went for it and tried it," Hegerle said. "The kids hadn't even practiced it."
The new lineup had Makenna Nold setting in the front row, while senior starting setter, Katie Trumbauer, played with Jenna Fischer in the back half of the court. The switch gave junior outside Bernadette Newman the chance to play all six spots on the court, a feat that ended with Newman hammering 13 balls at the net and keeping 14 balls in play in the back row.
Hunter Petersen was the Jays' kill leader with 14. The senior right side hit at .333 second only to Nold who hit her three kills with a .429 hitting percentage.
The Braves kept it close against the Jays for most of the match, with the exception of the 25-8 third set. Hegerle said the Jays missed more serves than planned, and while the Jays will be working on pressure serves in practice, the head coach added she liked to see the aggressive takes from the backline, end up as aces.
Hegerle also commended Fischer on her performance in the back row. While Fischer is battling an ankle injury, she still led the Jays in digs with 17 and recorded a passing average of 2.26. Hegerle said she was proud of how Fischer, a first-year libero for the team, has also assumed the role of anchoring left and middle back.
Trumbauer and Rylee Joseph combined for another 26 Blue Jay digs against a talented Mandan front row.
"We're just trying to figure out what the right combination is," Hegerle said. "Mid-season slumps are real. We're coming out of one right now but I think we are on the other side of it.
"Our kids are excited to play on Thursday. I hope a lot of people come out and support us. Bismarck High is flying high right now so the Blue Jays are going to try and put them into place."
Jamestown 3, Mandan 1
JHS 25 24 25 25
MAN 21 26 8 22
JHS -- Kills: Hunter Petersen 14, Bernadette Newman 13, Haylie Hakanson 8, Katie Falk 7, Annie Nabwe 6, Makenna Nold 3, Aspyn Peterson 1. Assists: Katie Trumbauer 23, Nold 11. Digs: Jenna Fischer 17, Newman 14, Trumbauer 13, Rylee Joseph 13, Petersen 9, Jada Walter 4, Nabwe 4, Falk 3, Hakanson 2, Nold 1. Aces: Joseph 3, Trumbauer 2, Newman 2, Fischer 1. Blocks: Nabwe 3, Newman 2, Hakanson 2, Petersen 1, Trumbauer 1, Falk 1, Nold 1.
MAN -- Stats not provided.
Records: Jamestown 18-9 overall, 9-4 WDA; Mandan 14-14, 9-5.